This blog has been missing in action.  Don’t go away.  The Horn of Africa is in the cross hairs of evil spirits these days.  Hardly anything there is going right.  For now, the unfinished Eritrea-Ethiopia history will be sidelined, though the border between them could unexpectedly become a front line without warning. But today’s news in Somalia and elsewhere in the Horn is more pressing.

In this blog on June 1, 2009 I wrote:  “Without a government, it became global open season on Somalia’s fish.  The local fishing industry was completely disrupted.  Canning for export stopped.  Local fish catches shrank as stocks were depleted by foreign fleets.” 

For years — ever since the Somali government collapsed in 1991 — no one protected Somali interests in its well stocked coastal waters.  Soon they were being over-fished, mainly by foreign poachers.  Local fisherman were increasingly abused and pushed aside.  

As catches declined in their home waters declined and abuse grew, outraged Somalis responded with low tech but effective attacks on the intruders.  They paid off so well that the local vigilante pirates were pushed aside by well financed high tech criminal pirate gangs, often foreigners with lawyers in London to negotiate ransoms and arrange payoffs.  Somalis provided the cheap labor and took risks,  but the big money went to the few at the top, not Somalis, or to wealthy Somali expatriates.  

Without a government, no one protected Somali coastal waters from illegal  and hostile raids bigger, more modern fleets. The local fishing industry was completely disrupted. Canning for export stopped. Local fish catches shrank for those fishermen daring enough to go out at all, as stocks were depleted. An AP report  confirms the harm done. What little fishingvives is showing better results as fish populations recover, but the catches are only for local consumption. No canning or exporting is possible in the present madness. 

Large scale piracy in Somali waters by foreign fishermen (including some from Europe and Asia) has now become too risky because of the other pirates — the ones in the headlines.  

One of these days the Somali nightmare will end and a government will emerge from the ashes.  When it does, a commercial fishing industry in a hungry world can help get the national economy get back on its feet. 

All it would take is a little help from a small fraction of the international naval fleet now patrolling the Indian Ocean.  They could easily deter the fishing mafia that turned a local nuisance (occasional seaborne coastal crime) into an international problem. 

When that day comes, will the world help Somalia fend off the fishing fleets of a dozen nations?