Somali pirates’ rise linked to illegal fishing and toxic dumping | The World from PRX

Illegal fishing and toxic waste by international ships sparked protests that became today’s piracy.

MOGADISHU, Somalia — “There are twin piracies, but only one that we all talk about,” said Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, Somalia’s prime minister, speaking to GlobalPost in his home in Mogadishu.

The piracy everyone knows about is estimated to have cost up to $6.9 billion last year. It is responsible for the ongoing captivity of 199 hostages, with 14 ships currently moored along Somalia’s hot, desolate coastline. It’s getting worse: attacks have risen from 111 in 2008 to 237 in 2011, according to the International Maritime Bureau, and the violence is escalating dramatically.

But the piracy the Somali prime minister was referring to is the theft of fish from Somalia’s territorial waters. Ali blames the plunder by international trawlers for impoverishing the country’s fishermen and pushing them to take desperate measures.


“The more dangerous piracy is the illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing off the coast of Somalia,” alleges Ali. “This has to be addressed.”

With at least 65 deaths resulting from armed attacks on ships over the past five years, many would debate the prime minister’s claim. However, he has a point: illegal fishing — which costs Somalia hundreds of millions of dollars every year — largely gave rise to piracy.

“This is a fact, this is not something we are making up. And this is how [piracy] started,” said Ali. “I’m not condoning the hijacking of ships off Somalia but … if we’re going to address piracy we should address both piracies.” Ali also criticized “the toxic waste dumping in our coastal waters.”

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