The United Nations released a new report last week on pirate activity in Somalia. The report identifies two main groups of pirates, but is especially concerned that the piracy network based in the northern Puntland region of the country, known as the Eyle Group, is collaborating with regional government officials. Despite these accusations, many political leaders in Puntland have recommitted to fighting the piracy problem.
In 2008 there were a total of 111 attacks on ships, a 200% increase over 2007, and there have been seven incidents in January and February of this year. Somalia’s government collapsed in 1991 and foreign vessels flooded the country’s territorial waters, drawn by the prospect of unlimited and unregulated fishing. Somali leaders say that piracy is an offshoot of the wider problem of illegal fishing, and the UN report stresses that restoring order within Somalia is critical to solving the piracy problem.
The UN is especially concerned about transporting food aid because approximately 95% of food aid to Somalia arrives by sea and approximately 2.4 million people rely on that aid for survival. NATO, the EU, Russia, and China are all contributing to a policing fleet in Somalia, and Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has urged UN member states in the region to contribute any naval resources they can spare to combating piracy.