News / Africa

    Somali Pirates Serve as Inadvertent Marine Conservationists

    A Somali fisherman carries a fish called "Yapuri" as he walks from Hamarweyne beach in Mogadishu, Somalia, November 22, 2008.
    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

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora