The real roots of Somalian piracy lie in failed governance and overfishing.
He notes that thousands of Somalis used to make their living as fishermen. But after two decades of state failure and no regulatory bodies, foreign fisherman illegally take nearly $300 million in fish per year from Somalia’s waters.
As a result fishermen became increasingly desperate, turning first to vigilante patrol boats to help self-police their own waters from illegal fishing and dumping. They would storm a boat and demand “taxation” or payment for their illegal fishing or dumping. This proved so successful, that while the economic situation at home grew even worse, many turned to piracy in order to survive and take in more lucrative catches. War is Boring suggests that pirates have cut the Somalian tuna trade in half.
In a 45 minute New York Times interview with a Somali pirate, they reveal their true motivation:
He said that so far, in the eyes of the world, the pirates had been misunderstood. “We don’t consider ourselves sea bandits,” he said. “We consider sea bandits those who illegally fish in our seas and dump waste in our seas and carry weapons in our seas. We are simply patrolling our seas. Think of us like a coast guard.”
This is a fascinating portrait of a complex system of unintended consequences.
Failed state -> unregulated waters -> illegal fishing and dumping -> violent vigilantes self-policing -> realisation of increased profit potential -> piracy.