The Beacon

Somali Pirates Tell Their Side

I wanted to share an interesting NY Times piece about Somali pirates who hijacked a Ukrainian freighter and are asking for a multi-million dollar ransom to release the ship and its crew. It's odd to think that piracy still exists in this day and age, but people are driven to commit crime for all sorts of reasons: greed, lust, insanity, necessity and so forth.

The twist here? The pirates claim that they were driven to piracy because of illegal tuna fishing. Since Somalia has essentially been without a government since the early '90s, there was no one patrolling the shore. Enter the pirates. Somali diplomat Mohamed Osman Aden is quoted as saying, "It’s true that the pirates started to defend the fishing business...and illegal fishing is a real problem for us."

By no means are the pirates justified because of Somalia's struggle with illegal fishing off its coast, but this article demonstrates how precious the sea's protein is -- in the absence of a legitimate coast patrol, criminals took it upon themselves to protect the plundered resource.

In 2002, Oceana board member and renowned fisheries scientistDr. Daniel Pauly presented a grim picture for the state of northwest African marine fisheries at an international symposium in Senegal. The image above is from his presentation and displays the inverse relationship between biomass and fishing activity off the African coast between 1950 and 1999. Although Somalia sits on the opposite shoreline, the graphic demonstrates the extent to which African fisheries are being overfished.

(If you want more pirates, check out the actual Q &A with one of the pirates -- he's amusingly blunt.)

[Graph: Dr. Daniel Pauly]


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