Captain Phillips is being deemed as one of the best movies of the year, with buzz about a potential Oscar due to Tom Hanks final five minutes, which is being regarded as the best acting that he has ever done. The movie has everything; from gut wrenching moments to cynical humour to empathy towards the captain and crew.

But what of the pirates?

Very little is said about why the boarded the ship or acted the way they did. Instead the movie is very much one sided and you find yourself empathizing with “Irish” and the crew. The only explanation given to the acts of the Somali’s was when Muse played by Barkhad Abdi, briefly explained that their fish were being stolen. It was so briefly said that it was forgotten a second later. And that was it, the only explanation in the entire movie which was quickly forgotten and instead replaced by the luring and aggressive acts of the Somali’s.

Sadly that is what the world will see and most likely remember

While the entire international community blames the Somali pirates for their ‘treacherous’ acts of hijacking ships, there is blatant disregard for illegal, and unreported fleets from around the world that have been poaching and dumping toxic waste in Somali waters. Ever since the fall of the Somali government in 1991, the Somali waters have been left unprotected, the area has become a free for all. According to the High Seas Task Force, there were over 800 fishing vessels at one time in 2005.

There has always been suspicion of illegal dumping and poaching, however in 2004 evidence emerged when a tsunami hit the coastline. The United Nations Environment Program reported that the, “tsunami washed rusting containers of toxic waste onto the shores of Puntland, northern Somalia.” A 2005 United Nations Environmental Program report cited radioactive uranium and other hazardous deposits leading to respiratory ailments and skin diseases breaking out in villages along the Somali coast.

A United Nations report in 2006 estimated $300 million worth of seafood is stolen from the country’s coastline each year. I am curious to know what would happen if $300 million was invested in the fishermen and fair trading on the coast. No wonder the pirates ask for such ridiculous amounts of money, because they know how much the fish that is stolen from them amounts to.

Somalia’s seas are something of a treasure chest that still offers a particularly fertile patch for tuna, sardines, mackerel, lobsters and sharks. Yet in other parts of the Indian Ocean region, such as the Persian Gulf, fishermen have had to resort to dynamite and other extreme measures to pull in such catches.

It’s no surprise that the Somali fishermen have resorted to desperate measures to ensure that we they have stay intact. I am in no way justifying piracy, but I feel as though one side of the story is blared to the public that we forget to find out the truth for ourselves. The Somali pirates were not forced to become pirates and fight for what is rightfully theirs. However when their livelihood is stripped away from them, they had nothing else to turn to but guns.

And let’s not forget that the pirates are not trained military men, no, they are young teenage boys that should be with their families or in school, but instead they have a gun forced into their hands and they find themselves doing things they hardly understand themselves.

So when I watch Captain Phillips I am merely entertained not informed. My empathy was with the crew however it was more with the Somali fishermen who saw this as the only way to make their voices heard on the injustice that was being done to them.

Image
Somali fishermen, walk past a small fishing vessel in the central Somali town of Hobyo.
Photographed by: Roberto Schmidt
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