French admiral Jacques Launay, a former commander of French forces in the Indian Ocean, was dubious when I asked him yesterday if the French navy could protect European fishing fleets in the western Indian Ocean after two French and Spanish ships were attacked by Somali pirates using rocket launchers. The fisherman, in the middle of the tuna fishing season, have all returned to their bases in the Seychelles and have asked for military protection.
“We will do our best if we are tasked with the job,” he said, “but we would need many frigates and men to protect the fishing fleet which is spread out over a wide area.” He explained that the most recent attack took place 400 nautical miles off the coast "so there is no question but that we are in international waters here."
The problem, he explained, is that the pirates are Somali fishermen who “in less than five minutes can haul out their rocket launchers, become priates and then turn back into fishermen so it's very difficult to find them.
But as first step was possible taken yesterday when the European Commission announced it was creating a coordination cell charged with supporting the surveillance and protection actions launched in the area by certain EU member states off the coast of Somalia.
The French luxury yacht Le Ponant under protection of the French navy after it was pirated off the coast of Somalia earlier this year.