We need Pirates not the UN to save our seas. Born out of environmental disaster – Somali Pirates are now doing more to help the restore marine ecosystems in Africa than any interest group on the continent. Let me Explain.
We cannot fix everything at once, but we have to start somewhere and where better than the most easily solvable environmental crisis – our seas.
There is general agreement among scientists, the fishing industry and politicians that deep-water fish stocks are over-exploited. Political imperatives, like getting re-elected, get in the way of any effective government action.
We can still manage our seas and provide enough, for all, forever. It’s not too late. The only practical solution for saving our seas is the creation of marine reserves. We protect large parts of our wilderness through national parks but have largely ignored the protection of our seas. Wherever they have been introduced, marine reserves have benefited the fishing industry: fish are given the space to breed and reproduce, and when they become too dense, they migrate to areas where they can be sustainably caught.
During the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, coastal nations agreed to create marine reserves that would cover 10% of the world’s oceans by 2012. In 2019 as little as 1% of the oceans are fully protected by marine reserves. This failure to deliver should be considered a crime against humanity. The perpetrators – our government leaders and those of the NGO’s they fund – should be held to account and prosecuted.
Now where do the Pirates come in? Well – the Horn of Africa has descended into societal collapse as a result of environmental degradation, climate change and damaged ecosystems.
With state failure in the region, so went the rule of law. International companies rapidly flowed in to dump unwanted and otherwise expensive to handle toxic waste into Somalia both on land and in their seas.
The rapacious global fishing fleets then moved into their territorial waters. In a free for all feeding frenzy, they then emptied their seas of the fish that once provided a sustainable livelihood to millions of Somali fishermen.
Those fishermen, whose seas had been raped, then turned to the one thing they could to feed their families – piracy. From a small start, they have made a great business out of a profession they were forced into. I would expect nothing less from the hard working and entrepreneurial Somalis.
The unexpected outcome has been a miraculous restoration of the marine ecosystems along their coastline and the cessation of all the illegal dumping that plagued the region.
The Pirates have created one of the largest well-patrolled marine reserves on the planet. The 2,000km of Somali coastline out to say 300KM is an area equivalent to the size of France. The presence of Pirates is preventing dumping and halting all but sustainable coastal fishing. The mega trawlers that previously plundered their waters are scared off. Pirates are doing what the UN does not have the will to do. In 2016, pirates attacked a series of Asian mega-trawlers that were illegally fishing lobsters and shrimps in Somali waters. These new guardians of the Somali marine reserves are teaching their official counterparts at the UN how to successfully protect the seas.
We need to abolish the global institutions we currently suffer under – they are the products of post war industrial revolution thinking. We need new institutions and leadership to manage our future in this, the sustainability revolution. The introduction of a global network of national and open water marine reserves under the stewardship of a new global fisheries body (or pirates) would be a start.
Let’s get repairing the future.