Colonialism is alive and well and creating havoc along the coastline of West Africa.
One of the main reasons for the rise in piracy in Somalia is the disgraceful plundering of its tuna-rich coastal waters by vessels from Spain, Portugal and other EU countries. The would-be Somalian buccaneers of today are the disgruntled fishermen of yesterday, swapping their nets and trolling lines for AK-47s and PKM machine guns. But these people only turned to robbery on the high seas when they became victims of it.
Foreign commercial vessels began casting their nets off the coast of West Africa over a decade ago, depriving young Somalis of their livelihood. The local fishermen demanded compensation and, when this was not forthcoming, they responded the only way they knew how – by attacking foreign vessels and seizing their assets in revenge for the trespass. Somalia’s long, remote coastline has also been used as a dumping site for the disposal of toxic waste.
A campaign group known as the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) has recently published the results of a two-year investigation into pirate fishing in West Africa. The study points an accusing finger at the EU. European Union accredited boats were found to be violating a whole raft of laws, codes and regulations, including fishing in protected areas, using banned fishing equipment, bribing enforcement officers, intimidation and refusing to pay fines.
Much of this arises from the EU’s ill-conceived Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). Fishing stocks in Europe have been in decline for several decades, but the CFP exacerbates the situation. It has led to overfishing of 75% of the continent’s fish stocks, sending prices into an upward spiral. Quotas just compound the problem. Absolutely nothing is achieved by the ludicrous and criminally wasteful practice of throwing huge numbers of fish overboard simply to avoid exceeding current quotas. It does nothing to halt the depletion of stocks and nothing to arrest rising prices. The effect of restricting catches around Europe has simply encouraged European fleets to sail off in search of fishing grounds elsewhere.
Somali piracy is a major threat to global shipping and the international community is under pressure to put a stop to it. But all the remedies and enforcement measures in the world will not save us from Davy Jones’s Locker unless the wider economic factors are addressed in a fair and comprehensive manner. We may be in the 21st century and the shameful days of slavery may be over, but EU policies are effectively causing exploitation of the African continent all over again.