Illegal Fishing Off Somalia’s Coast: A Magnet for Pirates?

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(DGIwire) – Rampant illegal fishing by foreign trawlers off the coast of Somalia’s once pirate-infested coastline is threatening economic gains in the Horn of Africa nation, and could push communities back to maritime crime. That’s the verdict of a study recently published by Secure Fisheries, a part of the One Earth Future Foundation, as reported in TimesLIVE, a South African news site.

According to TimesLIVE, Somalia’s pirates often justified their attacks because they were unable to compete with foreign fishermen. Piracy peaked in 2011 when 28 vessels were hijacked, but has since dramatically declined due to the use of armed guards on ships and international naval patrols. But the report by Secure Fisheries warned those advances could be reversed if illegal fishing is not stemmed. Foreign industrial fishing boats have resulted in depleted stocks, a loss of income for Somalis, and violence against local fishers, the report says, adding that it has threatened to ignite local support for a return of piracy.

At their peak in 2011, Somali pirates held more than 700 hostages, netting millions of dollars in ransoms and threatening key maritime trade routes, including the southern access to the Red Sea and Suez Canal, reported TimesLIVE. Illegal fishing was the pretext used by criminal gangs to shift from protectionism to armed robbery and piracy, John Steed, Secure Fisheries chief for the Horn of Africa, told TimesLIVE. Now the situation is back where it was, Steed continued, with large numbers of foreign vessels fishing in Somali waters again—and there is a real danger of the whole piracy cycle starting over.

In Somalia and other nations, as hard as it might be to believe in 2015, maritime piracy is still a huge problem. Modern piracy calls for a modern solution, and a company based in Portsmouth, NH, Juliet Marine Systems, thinks they have found it: they have developed a high-speed surface craft called GHOST. GHOST can be deployed with a tanker fleet, and because of its high adaptability, it can protect cargo ships as well. It has an eight-knot speed capacity, while its design makes it invisible to most radar devices. It can also maneuver the narrow channels many tankers have to traverse.

“The risk of renewed piracy is a threat to the stability of businesses and individuals’ livelihoods in any nation,” says Gregory E. Sancoff, president and CEO of Juliet Marine. “Unfortunately, many of the governments in the areas where physical pirate attacks are occurring do not have adequate resources to combat it. There, the pirates still have a potential advantage. We designed GHOST so that shipping companies and others would be able to put up a fair fight against technologically advanced foes.”

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