Somali piracy has its roots in the 1990s, when the collapse of the Somali government threw open the doors to major foreign fishing companies to illegally enter Somali waters and fish out all the tuna, which once comprised one of Somalia’s major commodities. The first Somali pirates were fishermen who decided to render a “fine” on any boats they found illegally fishing Somali waters. These pirates often called themselves “coast guards.”
In recent years, the original Somali coast guards have been subsumed by large criminal organizations. Piracy is no longer defensive in nature. All the same, it has had the effect of cutting in half tuna hauls for major foreign fishing companies working near Somalia, according to Warships International Fleet Review.
Just this week, Taiwan admitted to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna that 66 of the country’s 141 tuna-fishing vessels in the Indian Ocean “have ceased their operations due to the escalating situation” off Somalia. Three Taiwanese fishing vessels have been captured by pirates. This at a time when world bodies are concerned that world tuna stocks might collapse from over-fishing.
Today, Somali waters are essentially off-limits to large fishing vessels owing to the piracy threat, creating a zone of relatively safety for the threatened fish. That’s right: pirates as accidental environmentalists.