Behind the Somalia Piracy: a common effort to stop illegal fishing and nuclear dumping


As bizarre that might sound, the piracy along the Somali coast did not start as a mere gangster activity. I was myself surprised to learn that the initiative started as a mean of reacting against illegal fishing by foreign boats in Somali waters; but it was also a way of fighting against the dumping of nuclear waste on Somali coast following the collapse of the state since 1991. The British Independent wrote on 5th January 2009: “Yes: nuclear waste. As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken.”

The Independent revealed that over the years, Somalis living along the coast experienced strange rashes and some gave birth to malformed babies. The effect of radioactive materials worsened in 2005 when Tsunami washed ashore the dumped radioactive cargoes. The British paper estimates to three hundred people who lost their life as a consequence of radioactive contamination.

In a speech to Chatham House Think Tank in London last October, the Somali Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke declared that “many countries are fishing illegally in Somali waters and have pushed formerly profitable Somali fishermen into the pirate trade.” (AP, 31 October 2009).

There is certainly a hidden ethical issue behind the Somali piracy decried by many. These poor fishermen’ way of life has been destroyed by the capitalist greed of some western fishing companies. What the Somalis started as a non-organised movement to protect their common way of life has developed unfortunately to a lucrative business. It is true that the phenomenon has gone far beyond the initial and genuine claim of the fishermen. Thus, some gangsters have used the opportunity to make easy money.

The Somali prime minister’s statement reproduced by Reuters (5 December 2009) comes as an appeal for an international effort to resolve the Somali piracy problem: “Our fishermen currently watch as other countries plunder our waters. Whilst we condemn it outright, it is no wonder these angry and desperate people resort to ‘fishing’ for ships instead.”

Hopefully, if Somalis are left alone with their fish, they will no longer fish for boats. A simple survival logic!


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One Response to “Behind the Somalia Piracy: a common effort to stop illegal fishing and nuclear dumping”

  1. joelgateretse Says:

    This is one of the main advantages of the blogging experience, the sharing of information. A post like this not only opens up people’s eyes but it creates interest and the need for further research.

    It is also a very good example of commoning in terms of preserving the waters the pirates rightfully own as somalis. We have seen several examples of communities standing up to preserve the commons they believe are theirs such as “the zapatistas”, and this case is similar in every way apart from the fact that it escalated into unacceptable “gangster practices” such as robberies and kidnaping of innocent individuals. However, it is also undeniable that one of the initial drives of these people, which was to sustain the quality of their waters, is unquestionable. The way in which they went along with it, on the contrary, is unforgivable.

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