The ‘Global Spill-over Effect’ of lawlessness at sea

An article entitled "Piracy sidelines Third of Taiwan's Indian Ocean tuna fleet" (no longer available form on-line source), released on 26 November by AFP details the plight of fishermen operating in the Indian Ocean.  Taiwan has reported to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (ICCAT) that 66 of its 141 vessels equipped to fish Bigeye Tuna “have ceased their operations due to the escalating situation.”

Somali pirates have captured three Taiwanese fishing vessels.  One was released after a 10-month period of captivity and the payment of a large ransom.  The other two vessels and crews continue to be held hostage.

The Taiwanese are claiming that, because of the threat of pirates, they should be permitted to send 15 vessels to fish for Atlantic Bluefin Tuna. The problem is that Bluefin Tuna are officially in danger of extinction due to over fishing in every region of the Atlantic, except for Atlantic Canada where they are able to sustain a limited fishery.  Will quotas be reallocated that could threaten the local fishery as the result of illegal activity half a world away?

The article reports that the Taiwanese request would be limited to 2010 and 2011.  Then, “Once the problem of piracy is resolved, or the period is expired, the vessels ... will return to the Indian Ocean.” The problem is that substantial harm to stocks of Atlantic tuna can be wrought in two years and there is no evidence to support the assumption that the piracy problem will be rectified after that time.  By then, the Taiwanese will be established in the Atlantic fishery and will be able to claim existing rights.  The fishery is regulated on a voluntary basis and there is, again, no evidence to support the idea that they Taiwanese would withdraw willingly if the Indian Ocean were still too dangerous for them to exploit.  In the globalized world, issues of crime at sea can have indirect effects that ‘ripple’ about endlessly.