Well, come to think of it there might be a second difference. Being a pirate is a lot safer than fishing. At least in the waters off Somalia.
OK, there's a third difference. Piracy makes a guy a lot more money than fishing. At least in the waters off Somalia.
Really now, you can't beat the pirate's life. Speedboats, automatic weapons, the rush of climbing over the target's rails with a RPG in your mouth. The thrill of victory as you bring the captive ship and hostages back home to Puntland. The flush of cash in your hand as the shipowners pay the ransom.
Oh, yeah, the pirate's life is a grand one. At least in the waters off Somalia.
The Geek can just imagine all the testicle grabbing fun on board the weapons and tank laden ship today. It's got to be jolly time. Just standing there watching the USS Howard cruise impotently a mile or so away. Just a grabbing and a grinning as the small planes fly overhead and the warships stay a respectful distance away.
It's no wonder that piracy is a growth industry in Somalia (and a few other places as well.) It's no surprise that snatching ships on the high seas has been growing at ten percent or more per year.
Heck, piracy is dead easy, immensely profitable and, best of all, absolutely safe.
If the Geek didn't live a thousand miles from the nearest ocean, he'd be off to fly the Jolly Roger himself. It sure beats working for a living.
Of course piracy hasn't always been so safe. At one time not only did merchant ships carry both the means of self-defense but crews who were ready, willing and able to repel borders. At one time the naval forces of the Great Powers swept up any pirate vessels they encountered. At one time apprehended pirates could expect a choking end on a gallows erected at the high tide line.
There are international conventions which both make illegal and provide for enforcement and judicial measures against piracy for gain on the high seas. US law is not at all kind to those committing piracy. (See, Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 81, Section 1651, Piracy under law of nations.)
It may not be hanging in chains on Execution Dock, but it isn't a nice prospect either. In years gone by, the US Navy along with the Coast Guard had a leading role in suppressing piracy.
Whoever, on the high seas, commits the crime of piracy as defined by the law of nations, and is afterwards brought into or found in the United States, shall be imprisoned for life.
In fact, if you think back far enough, say the early 19th Century, the US waged a quasi-war with pirates in the Western Mediterranean. People died in this undeclared war. Merchant seamen. Naval personnel. Pirates. At the end the pirates were suppressed.
So what's happening today?
There's been a lot of talk. And, the US along with such major naval powers as Denmark formed a naval coalition against piracy in the waters off Somalia.
And, in a really, really pirate scaring move, Yemen announced the formation of a special anti-piracy patrol of 1,600 "specially trained" men using sixteen bought-in-Australia speedboats to curb piracy in the Red Sea and adjacent waters. (http://yemenonline.info/news-918.html)
With the exception of the French who have engaged in two special forces operations to liberate captured French registry recreational vessels and those on board, the Western navies and their civilian masters have been amazingly reluctant to authorize any action against the simple fisherfolk turned maritime muggers.
Perhaps this strange lethargy has been produced by the simple reality that the vast majority of the ships and yachts seized have been flying Third World flags of convenience. Many have been owned by firms willing and able to pay ransom for ships and crews. Third, but not least, most of the hostages have been from Third World states.
Considering that the US is a maritime nation (even if our national flag registry is puny) and considering that the Bush Administration has harped ad nauseum about the need for and desirability of international law and order, why is it that our naval assets in the area are limiting their activities to "monitoring the situation?" Oh, yes, and advising ship owners and operators to hire private security forces. (Perhaps Blackwater needs the business.)
Perhaps the US and other Western maritime powers are inhibited by the fear of actually killing some of these poor, scrawny Somalians who are simply seeking to make their way in a harsh world. Then there is the corollary: apprehension of crew members being caught in the crossfire.
One way to discourage piracy is to make the occupation inherently risky. That implies proactive measures. Stop the speedboats or the mother ships and arrest those on board. If they resist, shoot back--with lethal intent. The US Code makes it clear. Those suspected of piracy and brought before a US Federal Court can be tried and convicted.
As a less lethal alternative, the US and other countries can establish convoy rendezvous points and routes. This might slow maritime trade marginally and increase some costs a tad, but it would reduce piracy as an attractive alternative to fishing.
These options and others like them should be considered--quickly.
Why, you ask?
Because the Russians are coming. The Kremlin has indicated that their on route destroyer will operate independently. And, the Russians have always shown a willingness and ability to act robustly in defense of their own national interests, however loosely defined.
Remember that Ukrainian ship on which pirates are grabbing their balls and sticking out their tongues at the USS Howard has three Russians on board. Also, remember that Russia has interests in play regarding the Ukraine.
It could prove interesting for the Pirates of Puntland.