A surge of violent attacks on fishing vessels in the Gulf of Guinea have marked it the new piracy hot-spot, after piracy in Somali fell to a low in the first half of this year.
A substantial 31 attacks have been reported along with the informed injury of at least 5 of the 56 seafarers estimated to have been taken hostage in the Gulf of Guinea, with one of the kidnapped fishermen even reported to have been killed.
The Ivory Coast and Ghana, coastal countries to the Gulf, part of the Atlantic Ocean are two nations involved in the fishing and processing of tuna and these two countries together in 2011 were reported by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) to have accounted for a substantial 71,326 tons of the global tuna catch.
‚ÄúThere has been a worrying trend in the kidnapping of crew from vessels well outside the territorial limits of coastal states in the Gulf of Guinea,‚Äù said Pottengal Mukundan, director of the International Maritime Bureau (IMB). ‚ÄúIn April 2013, nine crew members were kidnapped from two container vessels, one of which was 170 nm from the coast.‚Äù
The violent activities resulting in the kidnapping and injury of fisherman could have a considerable effect on the potential for these nations to continue to fully exercise their usual tuna fishing activities, stressing the importance of Mukundan‚Äôs expressed concern over under-reporting of attacks, stating: ‚ÄúThis prevents meaningful response by the authorities and endangers other vessels sailing into the area unaware of the precise nature of the threat.‚Äù
The Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Guinea is also the operational area of many European tuna purse seiners and long liners. Some of these vessels had earlier moved out of the Indian Ocean to avoid the Somali piracy threat there.