MOGADISHU, Somalia, Nov. 24 (UPI) -- Pirates attacked two foreign vessels off the coast of Somalia on Sunday and Monday, capturing at least one ship.
Residents told the BBC a Thai fishing trawler managed to escape after pirates attempted to hijack it Monday, while officials said pirates seized an Iranian-flagged vessel -- as well as its 15 crew -- in waters along the northern coast Sunday.
John Steed of Oceans Beyond Piracy told CNN the small skiffs used by the pirates indicated the attacks occurred more than 200 nautical miles off the Somali coast.
"The attacks are on fishing vessels, which shows because of the high levels of illegal fishing off Somalia, there are lots of potential fishing boat targets. That's what started the Somali piracy problem in the first place," Steed said.
Somali pirates use hostages for ransom and are estimated to be holding fewer than 40 -- down from 700 taken in 2011.
The sharp decrease is attributed to the presence of international naval forces off the Horn of Africa, but Steed warned rising levels of illegal fishing in the area have the potential to bring back greater rates of piracy.