The piracy occurring off the coast of Somalia, most recently involving the hijacking of a supertanker, may have its roots in overfishing.

An opinion piece in the Christian Science Monitor argues that “[t]he problem of piracy in Somalia originated about a decade ago because of disgruntled fishermen.” Because Somalia wasn’t able to police its own waters, foreign fishing fleets had mercilessly moved in: The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization has estimated that there were some 700 illegal industrial fishing vessels off Somalia’s coast. “That prompted local fishermen to attack foreign fishing vessels and demand compensation. The success of these early raids in the mid-1990s persuaded many young men to hang up their nets in favor of AK-47s.” As a separate op-ed by the president of the Conservation Strategy Fund puts it, “Since then fish stocks have plummeted worldwide, shipping has exploded and ships have become much easier and rewarding to catch than fish.”

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