I pushed on with this game and kept an eye on them, seems they pushed their ship numbers up to just under 400, I was getting continually raided, mining and gas stations were being captured left right and center, I kept trying to fight them off and discovered that their losses where not being replenished, I've currently got them down to about 90 ships, and they don't seem to be building more, it's as if they build until they are broke and in massive dept, then can no longer build because of this.
I did also notice that when I paid for a protection pact, they continued to attack me anyway.
Funny thing is... I noticed that all pirate factions are way too strong from the start, even in normal games with a regular difficulty level, BUT... the odd things about it, it seems to happen more often when playing a 6x6 or 8x8 map with 100-250 stars... even when I set the pirate levels to 'few'. Anybody else can confirm that?
Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam
(Marcus Porcius Cato Censorius)