Spain has allowed Spanish flag tuna boats, operating in the Indian ocean, to hire armed security guards, to provide protection from Somali pirates. There are about a dozen of these Spanish fishing boats operating in the Indian Ocean, where about 20 percent of the world tuna catch is taken. The Spanish boats are over 200 feet long and have crews of about two dozen sailors. Last year, one of these boats was taken by Somali pirates, and was ransomed for $1.2 million. Several other tuna boats managed to escape pirate attacks.
Earlier this year, Spain said it would allow guards, armed with pistols, on these fishing ships. The fishing boat owners protested, pointing out that pistols would only be useful once the pirates were actually boarding. So this has been changed to allow rifles, as the pirates are usually armed with machine-guns and rocket launchers (RPGs.)
As always, the most important defense against pirates is alertness. That means spotting the pirates before they get too close, and staying in touch with the anti-piracy patrols, and other commercial ships in the area, who can provide information about where the pirates have been seen operating. The increased fear of pirates is largely because the pirates are operating over a much larger area. That is because, in the last few years, the pirates have been using captured, ocean going, fishing ships as mother ships (carrying, or towing, several speed boats and dozens of armed pirates). This enables the pirates to operate over a thousand kilometers off the coast.