Tag Archives: Clive Schofield

Roving bandits, piracy, and fishing

Piracy has been in the news a lot over the past few years.  Less noticed is the impact of’ roving bandit fishing fleets from the rich world that outfish local fisherman.  The associated press reports on a perverse consquence of Somalian piracy Kenya fishermen see upside to pirates: more fish

A report on pirates this year by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore said the value of illegal catches from Somalia’s maritime jurisdiction is estimated at between $90 million and $300 million a year, and that foreign fishing vessels hail from all around the world.

The report’s author, Clive Schofield, a research fellow with the Australian Centre for Ocean Resources and Security at the University of Wollongong, called it ironic that nations contributing warships to anti-piracy efforts are in some cases directly linked to the foreign fishing vessels “stealing Somalia’s offshore resources.”

“This situation has led some pirates to justify their actions on basis of illegal foreign fishing activities — styling themselves ‘coastguards’ and characterizing ransom demands as ‘fines,’” the report said. “Without condoning acts of violence at sea, it is clear that the Somalis who hijack shipping off their coast are in fact not the only ‘pirates’ operating in these waters,” it said.

Piracy has not had a huge effect on Kenya’s overall fishing industry, which is not very well developed on the coast, according to the permanent secretary for Kenya’s Ministry of Fisheries Development, Micheni Japhet Ntiba. Kenya has brought in between 5,000 and 7,000 metric tons of fish off its Indian Ocean coast each of the last several years, he said, less than a tenth of Kenya’s yearly catch from Lake Victoria, on Kenya’s western edge.

Piracy “is a negative thing for Kenya fisherman. It’s a negative thing for the Kenyan economy. It’s a negative thing for the western Indian Ocean economy,” Ntiba said. “What I think is important for us is to invest in security so the government and the private sector can invest in the deep sea ocean resources.”

Still, Kenya’s sports fisherman say the pirates appear to have had a hugely positive effect on their industry. Angus Paul, whose family owns the Kingfisher sports fishing company, said that over the past season clients on his catch-and-release sports fishing outings averaged 12 or 13 sail fish a day. That compares with two or three in previous years.

Somali pirates, Paul said, are a group of terrorists, “but as long as they can keep the big commercial boats out, not fishing the waters, then it benefits a lot of other smaller people.”