A new article just out in New Scientist suggests that the lawless seas off the coast of Somalia may be in serious environmental danger, as pirates allow fishermen to resort to destructive, unregulated fishing practices.

Typically, fishing vessels in the area carry scientists with them to monitor how much fish is being taken and how by-catch there is. But sailing in pirate-infested waters is risky business, so boats replaced scientists with armed guards. Scientific vessels find themselves confined to port, too.

According to the piece:

increasing by-catch. It could also be encouraging the use of damaging

fishing methods like "fish-attracting devices" – bamboo rafts held

together with netting that are left at sea for days or weeks. Fish such

as tuna congregate under FADs, making them easier to catch, but FADs

also snag and kill turtles and sharks. Michel Goujon, director of the

French tuna-boat owners' association, Orthongel, has evidence that

their use is on the rise.

The real issue here, though, isn't a lack of regulation. It's a massive failure by the international community to recognize the plight of Somalia's people, and to do something about it. Somalia is the number one failed state in the world, according to Foreign Policy magazine. As this piece in The Independent pointed out last year, many of the Somali people become pirates simply as a way to survive in a country where famine is commonplace and "government" is a fantasy.

Bad fishing practices are clearly just the tip of the iceberg. Europe appears to be using the waters off Somalia as dumping ground for radioactive waste and heavy metals. The confluence of abuse is something few ecosystems could be expected to survive for long, not to mention the people who depend on the sea for what little food and nourishment they can get.

Image: AFP