Pirates on the high seas: a human-environment conflict?

Pirates and their relationship with international fishing industry

Illegal fishing and dumping continues to be a major problem on the Somali coast, but you wouldn’t sense that from reading the news (unless you pay especially close attention, see the paragraphs at the end of this article). International ships also are huge competitors in the fishing industry, making it difficult for local smallholder fisherman.

The stories that were all over the news a few weeks ago were all about the American crew and captain who were attacked by pirates off the coast of Somali. We feel sympathy for those who had to fight off the pirates, and the captain who was a hostage for several days.

But what is at the root? What causes this tension between pirates and commercial ships? Why do the pirates do what they do?

I don’t have an answer, but I think that more research could be done to investigate the human-environment conflict here. I wrote about human-environment conflicts in an earlier post, and would hope that there is more research being done on this front.

I’m going to look more into this in the coming weeks and maybe get back to this topic, but in the meantime if you have any thoughts, I would like to hear them!

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2 Responses

  1. chewbear says

    When I first came across this idea, it was in the course I took last semester called “Environment Conflict Resolution Strategies.”

    Piracy on the Somali coast as it is now does seem to be profit driven, and not clearly rooted in the fishing and dumping conflicts. I could imagine that the smallholder local fishermen first started these types of activities to retaliate against the bigger ships out of feelings of helplessness and frustration, and possibly they eventually banded together to be able to go forth with bigger operations. That is my guess at least. I will read what you have linked and do some more searching on my own too.

  2. Nat says

    I’m no expert on this topic, but as I understand it the piracy in Somalia is primarily reactionary to breaches of international law–ships taking advantage of their relative lack of naval defense to illegally fish and and dump in Somalian waters. At least, that was the initial root of the piracy movement in the country. I have no doubt that it has taken a mind of its own now and that there are many pirates who act for less than philanthropic purposes. I see you touched on these reasons towards the beginning of your post, and I think this was how piracy started in Somalian, although the pursuit of profit is probably a driving force as well.

    This is the article I found that provides this perspective:


    It seems a little biased and I think should be taken with a grain of salt. But this BBC article also cites depletion of Somalian fish stock by trawlers as a principle reason that Somalians turned to piracy in the first place:


    I think that the piracy problem in Somalia can’t and won’t be fixed with international military force alone; major infrastructure work within Somalia needs to be done first, in order to help restore the nation’s sovereignty in their own waters.