Somali Pirates Target Illegal Fishing Vessels

By Vincent Maresca
Staff Writer

Somali pirates raided Iranian and Thai fishing vessels on November 22, marking a surprising comeback of piracy in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea.

The two fishing trawlers were engaging in illegal fishing activities off the coast of Puntland, a semi-autonomous region of Somalia, when the pirates attacked.

Although the Thai vessel managed to escape, Reuters reports that Abdirizak Mohamed Dirir, director of the seaport of Puntland, confirmed the pirates’ successful hijacking of the Iranian vessel off the coast of the city of Elyl. According to CNN, the pirates used “small skiffs,” flat-bottomed boats with a pointed bow, to seize the vessels.

Horseed Media, a Somali news organization, reported that the Iranian ship was freed and the pirates killed. Although there is no precise information on who conducted the offensive, fishermen and witnesses described a heavy battle in the sea.

One fisherman claimed that he heard gunfire and witnessed pirates killed and the Iranian boat freed. Abdulahi Bare, a local elder, said that there were “seven pirates killed and two others severely wounded.”

This was the second successful attack on illegal Iranian fishing trawlers in the past two years. Bloomberg News reports that Iranian, Egyptian, Yemeni, and Spanish ships have often engaged in illegal fishing, which Somali fishermen have used as justification for reviving the cycle of piracy.

John Steed, regional manager of nonprofit program Secure Fisheries, said, “Illegal fishing was the pretext used by criminal gangs to shift from protectionism to armed robbery and piracy. Now the situation is back where it was.”

Many low-income fishermen have little choice but to use criminal methods, according to Vice News.

Piracy was at its highest in early 2011, when Somali pirates held more than 30 ships and more than 100 hostages. In that year, the international community intervened with their respective navies.

One of the most daring operations was the rescue on an inland pirate base, where United States Navy Seals rescued American humanitarian Jessica Buchanan and Poul Hagen Thisted of Denmark.

The international community remains vigilant of the situation, as indicated in United Nations Security Council Resolution 2446 passed on November 10, which called for closer cooperation of regional organizations and member states with existing institutions in Somalia.

The Security Council also welcomed the formation of coast guard laws with the help of “the European Union Naval Force (EUNAVFOR) Operation Atalanta and EUCAP Nestor force.”

The Council accepted the Seychelles authorities’ initiative to establish a maritime court to prosecute acts of piracy.

In addition, the resolution both acknowledges and addresses the problem of illegal fishing and “its complex relationship with piracy.”

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