WHILE their warships patrol the Gulf of Aden to protect merchant shipping from Somali pirates, a number of those nations are directly linked to foreign fishing fleets that are plundering Somalia's fish stocks, says a new paper on reasons behind the growth of piracy off the Horn of Africa.
There are warships from India, Malaysia, Britain, the US, France, Russia, Spain and South Korea in the region shepherding merchant shipping and pursuing pirates but largely ignoring the illegal foreign fishers.
Somalia's 3300-kilometre coast is the longest on the African continent. The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates there are "700 foreign-owned vessels fully engaged in unlicensed fishing in Somali waters".
The collapse of the local fishing industry and subsequent poverty of coastal communities has been cited as one reason piracy has flourished in Somalia's lawless semi-autonomous province of Puntland.
Vessels from France, Spain, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Egypt, Kenya, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Yemen, Belize and Honduras exploit Somalia's fish stocks with virtual impunity, says Dr Clive Schofield's paper, Plundered Waters: Somalia's Maritime Resource Insecurity.
"It is particularly ironic that many of the nations that are presently contributing warships to the anti-piracy flotillas patrolling, or set to patrol, the waters off the Horn of Africa, are themselves directly linked to the foreign fishing vessels that are busily plundering Somalia's offshore resources," Dr Schofield, a researcher with the University of Wollongong's Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security.
Without condoning acts of violence at sea, he said: "The desperate Somalis who hijack shipping off their coast are in fact not the only 'pirates' operating in these waters."
It was estimated that foreign fishing vessels were taking considerably more protein out of Somalia's waters than they were supplying to Somalia in the form of humanitarian food aid, he said.
With almost a third of Somalia's 10 million people in acute need of aid, the systematic theft from its fisheries seriously affects the strife-torn country's ability to feed itself.
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald