Resources & Climate

Solving Modern-Day Piracy: Technology’s Role in Securing Our Nation’s Safety

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This post is part of the Natural Security Forum blog, which provides quick analysis from the Natural Security Forum team and outside contributors. For more information, visit the Natural Security Forum’s micro-site at 

Guest written by RADM (Ret.) Jon White and Grace Roskar, Consortium for Ocean Leadership

What was the underlying reason for the first construction of U.S. ships (six frigates) at the beginning of the 19th century? Piracy, as in the Barbary Pirates, who were deemed a hazard to U.S. national and global safety. Today, there is a related threat to our national and natural security on the high seas — “pirate fishing,” or more specifically, illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Just as the Barbary Pirates created a security threat to those on and near the ocean, so too does IUU fishing, which happens when pirate fishers violate national laws or international agreements and treaties.

This illegal fishing practice is more than a conservation and sustainability issue. IUU fishing is directly linked to trans-national criminal activity, chiefly human, drug, and arms trafficking; smuggling; and terrorism. As pirate vessels enslave laborers and transport illegal drugs, they effectively out-compete law-abiding fishers (undermining the 260 million legal fisheries jobs worldwide) while funding terrorist activities around the globe, such as the 2004 al-Qaida terrorist bombings in Spain. The far-reaching implications of IUU fishing on national security must be considered as actions in remote corners of the globe that directly affect our nation’s safety and economic stability (commercial fisheries constitute a multi-billion dollar industry).

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