There are two piracies in Somalia, the well publicized attacks on shipping by pirates from Somalia, and the much more expensive, damaging, and long lived piracy in Somali waters, the Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing fleets there from Europe, Arabia and the Far East, and the dumping of toxic waste in Somali waters. Both of these are violations of international law, but because Somalia has had no real government for close to two decades, no one has listened when Somalis ask for help with these two piracies.
Mohamed Abshir Waldo has written what may be the best overview of the problem of the two piracies: THE TWO PIRACIES IN SOMALIA: WHY THE WORLD IGNORES THE OTHER?
The origin of the two piracies goes back to 1992 after the fall of the Gen. Siyad Barre regime and the disintegration of the Somali Navy and Police Coastguard services. Following severe draughts in 1974 and 1986, tens of thousands of nomads, whose livestock were wiped out by the draughts, were re-settled all along the villages on the long, 3300kms Somali coast. They developed into large fishing communities whose livelihood depended inshore fishing. From the beginnings of the civil war in Somalia (as early as 1991/1992) illegal fishing trawlers started to trespass and fish in Somali waters, including the 12-mile inshore artisanal fishing waters. The poaching vessels encroached on the local fishermens grounds, competing for the abundant rock-lobster and high value pelagic fish in the warm, up-swelling 60kms deep shelf along the tip of the Horn of Africa.
The piracy war between local fishermen and IUUs started here. Local fishermen documented cases of trawlers pouring boiling water on the fishermen in canoes, their nets cut or destroyed, smaller boats crushed, killing all the occupants, and other abuses suffered as they tried to protect their national fishing turf. Later, the fishermen armed themselves. In response, many of the foreign fishing vessels armed themselves with more sophisticated weapons and began to overpower the fishermen. It was only a matter of time before the local fishermen reviewed their tactics and modernized their hardware. This cycle of warfare has been going on from 1991 to the present. It is now developing into fully fledged, two-pronged illegal fishing and shipping piracy conflicts.
According to the High Seas Task Force (HSTF), there were over 800 IUUs fishing vessels in Somali waters at one time in 2005 taking advantage of Somalias inability to police and control its own waters and fishing grounds. The IUUs, which are estimated take out more than $450 million in fish value out of Somalia annually, neither compensate the local fishermen, pay tax, royalties nor do they respect any conservation and environmental regulations norms associated with regulated fishing. It is believed that IUUs from the EU alone take out of the country more than five times the value of its aid to Somalia every year.
Illegal foreign fishing trawlers which have being fishing in Somalia since 1991 are mostly owned by EU and Asian fishing companies Italy, France, Spain, Greece, Russia, Britain, Ukraine, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, India, Yemen, Egypt and many others.
The dumping of toxic waste is an additional nightmare for Somalis. In 2005:
A spokesman for the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), Nick Nuttall, told VOA that for the past 15 years or so, European companies and others have used Somalia as a dumping ground for a wide array of nuclear and hazardous wastes.
Theres uranium radioactive waste, theres leads, theres heavy metals like cadmium and mercury, theres industrial wastes, and theres hospital wastes, chemical wastes, you name it, he said. Its not rocket science to know why theyre doing it because of the instability there.
Mr. Nuttall said, on average, it cost European companies $2.50 per ton to dump the wastes on Somalias beaches rather than $250 a ton to dispose of the wastes in Europe.
He said the Asian tsunami dislodged and smashed open the drums, barrels, and other containers, spreading the contaminants as far away as 10 or more kilometers inland.
The results of the contamination on coastal populations, Mr. Nuttall says, have been disastrous.
These problems range from acute respiratory infections to dry, heavy coughing, mouth bleedings, abdominal hemorrhages, what they described as unusual skin chemical reactions, he noted. So theres a whole variety of ailments that people are reporting from these villages where we had a chance to look. We need to go much further and farther in finding out the real scale of this problem.
The Somalis have appealed repeatedly to the UN, the EU, the Arab League, and others. Mohamed Abshir Waldo describes:
In September 1995, leaders of all the Somali political factions of the day (12 of them) and two major Somali NGO Networks jointly wrote to the UN Secretary General, Dr Boutros Boutros Ghali, with copies to the EU, Arab League, OIC, OAU and to other involved parties, detailing the illegal fishing and hazardous material dumping crises in the Somali sea waters and requesting the UN to set up a body to manage and protect these waterways.
Somali fishermen in various regions of the country also complained to the international community about the illegal foreign fishing, stealing the livelihoods of poor fishermen, waste dumping and other ecological disasters, including the indiscriminate use of all prohibited methods of fishing: drift nets, under water explosives, killing all endangered species like sea-turtles, orca, sharks, baby whales, etc. as well as destroying reef, biomass and vital fish habitats in the sea.
Meanwhile, the UN, and all the regions and nations that have been fishing in Somali waters and dumping toxic waste in those same waters are screaming about the Somali pirates attacking shipping passing near the Somali coastline. Part of this is that they want to protect their IUU fishing fleets and the ability to dump their toxic waste. Fleets from a multitude of nations are converging in the Somali seas. Reasons for the convergence of navies include force projection, control of vital shipping lanes, raw materials, energy resources, keeping up pretexts for the war on terror, and general global positioning, in addition to protecting the IUU fishing and the toxic waste dumping.
There is no question that piracy is a serious problem off the coast of Somalia. Only one side of this problem is being hyped by western medialia. Nevertheless, it should be stopped.
Just who can stop the Somali pirates? We may not know who can stop them, but we know who did stop them. In mid 2006 the Islamic Courts Union took control of Somalia, providing the only relatively peaceful and properous period in recent Somali history. Somalis from overseas began to return to Somalia. . . .