Return of piracy off Somalia possible as foreign trawlers continue with illegal fishing

An organization made up of shipping professionals have sought action against the continued illegal fishing off Somalia as the European Union Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) said the complaint does not qualify to be addressed by the forces since it does not come under its remit of Operation Atlanta.

The Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO) said the increasing number of foreign trawlers could revive the dying business of piracy off Somalia. Piracy cases have been on the decrease since 2010 when international forces were based along the notorious sea-routes.

The pirates are regarded as the Somali Navy forces by a section of Somalis although their actions contravenes the international laws of seas.

According to a number of testimonies given out by former pirates, they said they resorted to piracy after the number of fish in the sea significantly dropped, a hard reality they blamed on multi-national companies who dock trawler off the coasts of Somalia without any regard for the rules of fishing. This has left quite a number of desperate fishermen to join pirate groups operating in the Gulf of Aden.

The question of illegal piracy in the coast of Somalia was raised this weeks in the just concluded London International Shipping Week, attended by EU NAVFOR Operation Commander, Major General Martin Smith.

BIMCO Chief Maritime Security Officer Giles Noakes said illegal fishing is an area requiring “sustained” involvement from the shipping industry and “all stakeholders”.

“For me, personally, from a BIMCO perspective, I see it as a problem area because it is a potential catalyst for re-aggravating the local community,” he told the media.

Noakes said he would be concerned by any threat to the “three-legged stool” of maritime security: onboard security, military security, and land-based actions to address the sources of illegal activities at sea.

“If you take one leg away it will collapse,” he said.

“If we are going to return to some sense of normalcy, all we can do is shave down the legs on a graduated basis. We are not going to over-react. We want to talk together and we want to ensure that the success in deterring piracy becomes a defeat of piracy.” 

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