French marines deployed on a tuna fleet off the Seychelles fired at suspected Somali pirates yesterday, the second such clash in the space of a few days as France protects its highly lucrative tuna industry.
While navies from around the world struggle to contain escalating pirate attacks in the Indian Ocean, some countries like France are opting to directly protect their vessels though others fear this could make things worse, Reuters reports.
Small boats carrying what appeared to be Somali pirates chased two French tuna fishing ships some 370 km north of the Seychelles, French military spokesperson Christophie Prazuck said.
“The troops fired a type of flare to show the pirates that the ships were protected. As they continued to come closer, the soldiers fired warning shots in front of the boats of the pirates, who turned back and stopped the attack,” he said.
Last week, French troops fired at pirates in a similar confrontation to protect two tuna ships some 350 km off the Seychelles.
That was the first time the French fought off an apparent pirate attack since the plan to protect their tuna fleet was implemented in July.
The tuna industry is worth up to $6 billion across the Indian Ocean region, and some 60 French marines are now protecting about 10 vessels off the Seychelles.
“It’s useful, efficient and sufficient,” Prazuck said.
However, other countries have expressed fears that putting troops and armed guards on merchant ships or fishing boats will further worsen the situation and lead to an escalation of violence.
Spanish tuna fishing boats off the Seychelles have also been targeted by Somali pirates, who have widened their hunting grounds to avoid navy patrols along the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden.
Gangs from lawless Somalia some made up of former fishermen who lost their livelihood as foreign fleets moved into the waters have made tens of millions of dollars in ransoms by hijacking merchant ships.