Pirates have hijacked three Finnish fishing vessels off the coast of Somalia's semi-autonomous northern region of Puntland, a maritime official said on Thursday.It should be noted that the Somali pirates have asserted, on occasion, that they are the de facto Coast Guard of Somalia, trying to protect Somali fishing waters and its EEZ from incursion and exploitation by foreign forces. See here (Somaliland v. Yemen on fishing), here (US Navy asked to protect Somali waters) and here (contains a discussion of territorial waters and EEZ).
"We are still investigating the nationality and the number of the crew as well as the ownership of the vessels," Andrew Mwangura, of the Kenyan branch of the Seafarers Assistance Programme, told AFP.
He said an unspecified number of gunmen hijacked the boats early on Wednesday.
On the other hand, they might be pirates, capturing crews and ships for ransom, which is probably way more profitable than fishing or farming.
INSTANT UPDATE: Not surprisingly, there seems to be some confusion in the initial reports. The BBC says:
Three foreign trawlers are being held in the semi-autonomous Somali area of Puntland for fishing illegally.
Puntland official Abshir Abdi Jama said the boats were seized last week and denied reports they had been hijacked.
The Finnish ambassador in Kenya has denied initial reports that the trawlers are from Finland, saying he had been told they were from Egypt.
Earlier, Kenyan maritime officials expressed fears that the trawlers had been hijacked by pirates.
"The vessels captured belonged to some Arab and European countries and we have still not made contact with their governments," Mr Jama said.