Sunday, November 1, 2009

Somali Pirates: We're Protecting Our Fish

Along with issuing a ransom demand on Saturday for a British couple whose yacht they seized, the Somali pirates used the opportunity to accuse foreigners of stealing their resources, namely their fish. "The Western forces continue to loot our natural resources. They continue to harass local fishermen and destroy their fishing nets, so we want them to taste the consequence," said Ahmed Gadaf, a self-described spokesman for the pirate group holding the wayward British yachters Paul and Rachel Chandler. Gadaf went on to say that "many countries are fishing illegally in Somali waters," and estimated that they were taking "hundreds of millions of dollars" worth of fish from Somalia.

Though the US media has picked up on Gadaf's claims as something new, this isn't the first time the pirates have painted themselves as a sort of vigilante coast guard fighting to defend Somalia's waters - you can click on the "Pirates" tag on the right side of the page to read earlier claims by the pirates that they are really acting out of economic self-defense.

And honestly there is something to their claims, many of today's pirates were once fishermen who plied the waters just off the Somali coast. But without a viable government for the past two decades, there has been no way for Somalia to patrol their territorial waters, leaving them open to exploitation by whomever - including, according to the pirates, the fishing fleets of any number of nations. But coastal defense doesn't explain why Somalia's pirates are now heading hundreds of miles out into the Indian Ocean to capture ships and hold them for ransom.

In addition to the Chandler's yacht, Somali pirates have also seized a large Chinese cargo ship and a Thai-owned, Russian-crewed fishing vessel in recent days.
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