A U.S. Navy rescue and assistance team travels to provide humanitarian and medical assistance to the crew of the Taiwanese-flagged fishing trawler Ching Fong Hwa. Photo: Navy.mil
When Brian wrote about the connection between overfishing and piracy in Somalia he got mostly pilloried in the comments. So, I'm going to lead by saying that no one is advocating piracy, or that strong measures shouldn't be taken to prevent it, but failing to look at the origins of the problem will only lead to defeat.
In that light, Amy Goodman from Democracy Now! just did a good interview with Mohamed Abshir Waldo, in which he goes into detail about how toxic dumping and illegal fishing have led to the current situation. Here are some excerpts:Toxic, Nuclear Waste Dumping Has Happened Since the 70s
Goodman asked Waldo to elaborate on the origins of toxic dumping. For many TreeHugger readers this may well be the first they've heard of this in Somalia,
Well, toxic dumping, industrial waste dumping, nuclear dumping, as you are probably aware and have heard and many people know, for quite some time, in the ’70s mainly, in the ’80s, in the ’90s, there was a lot of waste of all these kinds that companies wanted to get rid of, following very strict environmental rules in their countries. So where else to take but in countries in conflict or weak countries who could not prevent them or who could be bought? So these wastes have been carried to Somalia. It’s been in the papers. It has been reported by media organizations like Al Jazeera, I think, like CNN. Many had reported about the Mafia, Italian Mafia, who admitted it, dumping it in Somalia for quite some time, for quite a long time.
And as we speak now, I heard yesterday, in fact, another vessel was captured in the Gulf of Aden by community—this time not pirates, by the community, when the suspected it, and it was carrying two huge containers, which it dumped into the sea when they saw these people coming to them. They have been apprehended. The vessel had been apprehended. Fortunately, the containers did not sink into the sea, but they are being towed to the coast. And this community has invited the international community to come and investigate this matter. So far, we don’t have action.
Europeans, Chinese, Russians, Koreans, Others All Illegally Fish Somali Waters
Brian gave a good rundown of what how fishing and piracy are connected in this instance, but Mohamed Abshir Waldo lays out who is involved in this illegal fishing,
The countries engaged include practically all of southern Europe, France, Spain, Greece, UK. Nowadays I hear even Norway. There were not many Scandinavians before, but Norwegian fishing now is involved in this, you know, very profitable fishing business. So, there are others, of course. There are Russian. There are Taiwanese. There are Philippines. There are Koreans. There are Chinese. You know, it’s a free-for-all coast.
And to make things worse, we learned that now that the navies and the warships are there; every country is protecting their own illegal fishing piracies—vessels. They have come back. They ran away from the Somali volunteer guards, coast guards, but now they are back. And they are being protected by their navies. In fact, they are coming close to the territorial waters to harass again the fishermen, who no longer have opportunity or possibility to fish on the coast because of the fear of being called pirates and apprehended by the navy, who are at the same time protecting the other side.
So the issue is really a matter of tremendous injustice, international community only attending and talking and coming to the rescue of the—of their interests and not at all considering or looking from the Somalis’ side. This does not mean I am condoning or anyone is condoning piracy or endangering the life of innocent sailors and crews or damaging the property of others, but these people, these fishermen-turned-pirates, had no alternative but to protect themselves, to protect their turf, to—you know, an act of desperation, you might call it.
If you really want to dig deeper, here is Mohamed Abshir Waldo's paper on the subject, from January of this year: The Two Piracies In Somalia: Why the World Ignores the Other?
How Overfishing Almost Got Capt. Phillips Killed by Pirates
Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Will Be Gone in 3 Years At Current Fishing Rates
Global Fisheries Hit by Climate Change and Overfishing