The other side of the pirates’ story

Posted on April 13, 2009


The story of the captures American captain has been a god send for the media. Apart from the spectacular Downing Street screw-up over an planned online smear campaign against the Tories, the tale of trouble on the Somalian high seas has provided much needed drama during what was expected to be a pretty quiet Easter weekend.

Yet coverage of the story has been of the typical bad pirates, good Americans formula.

An article by Johann Hari adds another dimension to the events:

At the same time, other European ships have been looting Somalia’s seas of their greatest resource: seafood. We have destroyed our own fish stocks by over-exploitation – and now we have moved on to theirs. More than $300 million worth of tuna, shrimp, lobster and other sea life is being stolen every year by vast trawlers illegally sailing into Somalia’s unprotected seas.

The local fishermen have suddenly lost their livelihoods, and they are starving. Mohammed Hussein, a fisherman in the town of Marka 100km south of Mogadishu, told Reuters: “If nothing is done, there soon won’t be much fish left in our coastal waters.”

This is the context in which the men we are calling “pirates” have emerged. Everyone agrees they were ordinary Somalian fishermen who at first took speedboats to try to dissuade the dumpers and trawlers, or at least wage a “tax” on them. They call themselves the Volunteer Coast Guard of Somalia – and it’s not hard to see why.


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