News / Africa

Somali Pirates Serve as Inadvertent Marine Conservationists

A Somali fisherman carries a fish called
A Somali fisherman carries a fish called "Yapuri" as he walks from Hamarweyne beach in Mogadishu, Somalia, November 22, 2008.
Jill Craig
MOMBASA, Kenya — Although the economic and human costs of piracy off the coast of Somalia are enormous, the pirates may actually be helping to improve marine life in the area.  As commercial fishermen steer clear of the Somali coastline, fish and coral reefs thrive.

The cost of Somali piracy in 2011 was estimated between $6.6 and $6.9 billion, according to the One Earth Future Foundation. And, the United Nations says that, although the number of incidents declined in 2011, there were still 265 hostages being held at the end of the year.

Needless to say, many fishermen are avoiding Somali waters. But some of those who are venturing in say the fishing is quite good.

x
Abdul Mohammed Omar is a 24-year-old fisherman from Lamu, a Kenyan coastal town about 150 kilometers from the Somalia border. He was on a fishing expedition in Kiunga, next to the border, about six months ago. Omar claims that larger schools of fish are found closer to Somalia.

“The thing is, the other side, the border near to Somalia, is much better for fishing. 

"But we’ve got no choice for [because of] these pirates," he said. "So we have to come this side. So now is not so good, because this side, there is not a lot of fish.  People they are fishing a lot on this side. So right now, our business is very down, because we don’t get a lot of fish for now.”

Mudhir Abdulrahman is another Lamu fisherman who was in Somalia three months ago. He says that he does not go often, because of piracy fears, but that when he does, his catches are bigger.

“Before, we used to take three to four days to fill the boat with five tons of fish. But now, we go there for one day and we have five tons,” said Abdulrahman.

But it is not just the smaller fishermen who are afraid to venture into these waters. Alejandro Anganuzzi is the executive secretary of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission, based in the Seychelles. He explains why there is very little activity there.

“Up to 200 miles [320 kilometers] from the coastline of Somalia, they haven’t had activities for a long time," said Anganuzzi. "Essentially, also because it would be an invitation to disaster for any boats right now to operate in that area. Some of the boats have security on-board, but they have very clear instructions from their flag states not to operate in any areas closer to 300 miles [480 kilometers].”

Large commercial fishing is restricted and local fishing has never been a major contributor to the Somali economy, which instead favors pastoral livestock and crop production. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, the pastoral population is estimated at 2.3 million people, while coastal fishing only engages about 180,000 people.

David Obura is the director of Coastal Oceans Research and Development in the Indian Ocean. He says Somali fishermen have never had the capacity for large-scale fishing, which can damage coral reefs.

“Fishing has never been that developed along the main, sort of the Indian Ocean, Somali coast," said Obura. "So small-scale fishing can happen, with artisanal gears and very basic gears.  But until you get a really supportive economic and business environment, for people to invest in large boats and the gear and the fuel that’s needed to run them, and the expertise, fishing doesn’t develop as a major economic sector until there is a good supportive environment for it.”

Obura says that he expects reef fish populations to be quite healthy, based on marine research he did in Somaliland in 1997.

“But I’m guessing that now, with the conflict and the insecurity for boats on the sea, that there would be much less fishing in southern Somalia," he said. "And, when that happens for several years, you will get better fish communities. The reefs, themselves, all the reefs in East Africa are recovering from major bleaching events in 1998, so climate change impacts, so the corals may be in varied condition, but the fish will recover quite quickly if there’s no fishing pressure.”

However, Anganuzzi says that, although a form of marine conservation may be occurring in the waters near Somalia, the fishing vessels are simply relocating.  

“Those fishing operations have disappeared from the tropical area.  But, I think they have not disappeared altogether.  So what you see is not a reduction in the fishing intensity, but rather a displacement. So what is good for some species in the tropical areas is going to be very bad for species in other areas, like the southern Indian Ocean, or even in other oceans,” he said.

But, as for the fish near the Somalia coastal areas, Lamu fisherman Omar says that the pirates are protecting them.

“Pirates take care after the fish. If somebody comes to catch, he has to go back because he’s afraid of the pirates. So the fish, they’re very lucky, to be honest,” he said.

Stretching more than 3,300 kilometers, Somalia has the longest coastline of any country in continental Africa.  A 2011 U.N. Security Council report estimates that fisheries within 370 kilometers off the Somalia coast are capable of providing sustainable annual catches of at least 200,000 tons, including high-value tuna and mackerel.

You May Like

FIFA Indictments Put Gold Cup Tournament Under Cloud

Experts say US indictments could lead to charges of other world soccer officials, and lead to major shakeup in sport's governance More

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

At a recent even in Seoul, border communities promoted benefits of increased cooperation and North Korean defectors shared stories of life since the war More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows Fight to Death With IS

In wide-ranging interview, Fuad Masum describes new type of fight that will take time to win More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs