Somali pirates a threat to ocean ecosystem
Scientific research about overfishing and the state of marine life suffer in the wake of increased violence in the Indian Ocean.
Fri, Feb 12 2010 at 12:13 PM
IN PROGRESS: A 'skiff', a small boat frequently used by Somali pirates, as seen by Portuguese helicopter Daxter during a surveillance operation off the coast of Somalia. (Photo: ZUMA Press)
Hijacked ships in the Indian Ocean aren't the only consequence of an increase in piracy in the region. According to an article in New Scientist, scientists gathering data about fish stocks and threatened species have been virtually shut out of the area because of security concerns. As a result, illegal poaching continues, almost completely unchecked.
"We can't monitor and we can't do experiments because of the pirates," says Laurent Dagorn of France's Research Institute for Development (IRD).
As a result, piracy may be increasing harmful bycatch. To avoid being attacked, fisherman are leaving nets at sea for days or weeks — furthering the likelihood of snagging and killing turtles, sharks or other threatened species.
Last March, a scientific vessel was hijacked by pirates prowling the waters around the Seychelles. The seven crew members were held hostage for months. They were all later released, but the message sent to the research community was clear: avoid the Indian Ocean.
"We find ourselves in a paradoxical situation," said Dagorn. "To better manage and predict the effects of fishing on the ecosystem, we need to work in the regions where the seiners are. Thanks to the military, the (fishing) boats have regained their fishing grounds, but we researchers cannot resume our activities," Dagorn explained.
According to the AFP, since last April, five scientific campaigns have been canceled and are being relocated to pirate-free areas, either further south in the Mozambican Channel or halfway across the globe in the Atlantic.
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