Very interesting article in the San Francisco Chronicle yesterday (thanks, SFriedScientist). Fishermen in Kenya and Somalia are seeing increasing catches of fish near shore, which may be related to the epidemic of piracy off the Somalian coast. When the government of Somalia collapsed in the early 90’s, the country lost whatever enforcement authority it had previously had over its exclusive economic zone—the 200-mile territorial waters where a nation controls marine resource use, including oil and fish. Distant-water fleets soon moved in, began fishing on an industrial scale, and depleted coastal stocks, leaving many Somalian fishermen without a means of providing themselves. Without a legal livelihood (or law enforcement presence), increasing numbers of former fishermen have turned to piracy, resulting in a number of well-publicized hijackings of cargo and tanker ships in the past few years. As the article describes, one of the side effects of all this piracy has been rebounding fish populations.
“I remember some days I used to go to the sea early to catch fish and would return with no fish, but nowadays there are plenty. You can catch it everywhere,” said fisherman Bakar Osman, 50. “I do not know the reason but I think the foreign fishing vessels, which used to loot our fish, were scared away by pirates.”
I’m skeptical that more fish for local fishermen will end piracy in Somalia, given that it’s still highly lucrative, and there’s still no government. It will be very interesting to watch how this situation plays out in the long-term, however.