Law returns to pirate hunting grounds

Stephen Spark

Coastguard operations in Somaliland and the Seychelles this week suggest countries previously plagued by piracy are increasingly able to protect their territorial waters.

Acting on information from local residents, the Somaliland Coastguard on Tuesday arrested 16 large vessels and 32 skiffs on suspicion of illegally fishing in the self-declared state’s waters.

The boats – all but one of which were from Yemen – were escorted to the port of Berbera. After being questioned and fined their crews were later released.

On the same day, a Seychellois fishing vessel alerted the Seychelles Coast Guard (SCG) to two suspicious vessels 90nm southeast of Mahé island.

Two Iran-flagged dhows, Maoli and Marliki, were intercepted by SCG’s patrol ships Topaz and Etoile. Shadowed by Seychelles Air Force aircraft, the dhows were brought into Port Victoria, where the 36 crew members and two captains, all Iranian nationals, were detained by police.

Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing causes a major loss of revenue for Indian Ocean and African countries.

In the 1990s, IUU fishing in Somali waters prompted local fishermen to launch informal interdiction efforts, which evolved into piracy. A major thrust of international efforts to eradicate piracy has been the establishment of a sustainable fishing industry in Somalia under the protection of an effective coastguard.

In a statement issued today, the UN Office on Drugs & Crime (UNODC) congratulated the Somaliland Coastguard for successfully protecting its maritime space while observing principles of international law on minimum use of force.

“The operation carried out on 16 December was an important milestone for the Somaliland Coastguard in the fight against maritime crime,” said UNODC maritime crime programme co-ordinator Bart Hulsbosch, according to the statement.

In October, Seychelles’ minister of foreign affairs, Jean Paul Adam, told IHS Maritime that resources and tactics developed to fight piracy are equally effective against other forms of maritime crime, and vice versa.

“One of the things that Seychelles has done in the fight against piracy which has been very effective is cross-referencing our air surveillance against our vessel-monitoring system [VMS],” he said.

“An aircraft can cross-reference the VMS against what they see. All those vessels that don’t appear in the VMS are obviously not doing something. In many cases they are illegal fishing, but we’ve also discovered a lot of other things.”

Adam revealed that information from Seychelles’ counter-piracy surveillance assets recently resulted in the seizure of a huge shipment of heroin off the coast of Kenya.


Original Article