More than 30 French marines were deployed on France’s tuna fleet off Seychelles on yesterday, France’s envoy to the archipelago said, to protect the highly lucrative business from Somali pirates.
France and Spain, which base fleets in the Seychelles, haul in nearly 23 of the year’s catch off Somalia between August and November, experts say.
Pirates with rocket launchers and sophisticated navigation equipment have run riot off the Somali coast, often outwitting a fleet of foreign warships sent to defend the strategic waterways of the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean, Reuters reports.
“Over thirty troops are being deployed on French tuna vessels to guard them against pirates,” envoy Philippe Delacroix told reporters in Victoria.
Their mission was to defend, not attack, he said.
European fleets say Somali pirates better known for their hijacking of commercial vessels are threatening an industry worth up to $6 billion (R48 billion) annually across the Indian Ocean region. The pirates have made millions of dollars from ransoms.
During the August-November season, the waters beyond Somalia’s Exclusive Economic Zone hold some of the richest stocks of yellowfin tuna.
Pirates attacked tuna boats in the region at least three times last year, officials say.
Somalia’s government says piracy off its shores is merely a symptom of illegal trawling by vessels from Europe and Asia in its unpatrolled waters.