The piracy situation in Somalia is a terrible human tragedy. That’s why when conservationist Joni Lawrence said that it was great because it helped fish stocks to recover, people like myself and Blogfish author Mark Powell got angry. As it turns out, Joni Lawrence wasn’t just being horribly insensitive- she was wrong.
So I’m not accused of slandering someone out of context, here is Joni Lawrence’s original argument. The Indian Ocean is a rich fishing ground, and many stocks are overfished. Piracy in the area makes people stop fishing because they fear being kidnapped or killed. This, in turn, allows overfished stocks to recover. Though heartless, it seems to make sense at first glance.
However, a report in today’s New Scientist explains the problem with this reasoning. It isn’t just fishing vessels that are afraid to go out. Scientific and governmental monitoring vessels also fear the pirates. Also, desperate economic conditions have caused some fisherman to return to the Indian Oceans’s fishing grounds- only this time, they are taking armed guards with them in place of fishery observers.Without observers on board, fisherman may be more likely to use illegal gear and less likely to take expensive bycatch reduction efforts.
Somalian piracy isn’t just a terrible problem for people, it’s a terrible problem for fish as well.