Tanzania: Kikwete hails patrol team over pirate ship

By Khalfan Said

President Jakaya Kikwete yesterday hailed the four-nation joint patrol team in the Indian Ocean for seizing a pirate ship fishing illegally on the Tanzania`s Exclusive Economic Zone.

On Saturday night an unidentified pirate vessel with no proper documentation, flag and without valid working permit, was apprehended in the EEZ of Tanzania.

The vessel christened `Tawariq`, was found 100 miles offshore and when towed into Dar es Salaam Port was founded loaded with 70 tonnes of tuna.

Police are holding 35 foreign fishermen, believed to be from Taiwan, Vietnam, Yemen and Kenya, who were on board.

The move was a successful operation made by a joint patrol team involving South Africa, Mozambique, Kenya and Tanzania.

In his congratulatory message to the team members made at State House in Dar es Salaam yesterday, President Kikwete commended the South African government for providing a modern surveillance ship to assist the operation.

"Your job is very commendable you have done a very good job," President Kikwete told the team, which Livestock Development and Fisheries minister John Magufuli had accompanied to State House.

The Head of State explained that illegal fishing in Tanzania`s deep sea has been a chronic problem for years, due to lack of modern equipment.

"I was told that, about 70 tonnes of tuna have been impounded and these kinds of fish are in high demand in the world market…thanks for what you have done," he said.

He however noted that the move was the fruitful result of a recent ministerial meeting held in Swaziland, where they came up a with recommendation that big nations in the Southern African Development Community, like South Africa should assist member countries to curb illegal fishing in the EEZ.

Addressing a news conference earlier, Magufuli said about 30 crew members who were on board had been arrested and legal measures against them would be instituted soon by respective authorities.

According to him, tuna fetches at least USD10 per kilo in the world market.

"You can calculate how many billions of shillings the government is losing on a daily basis," he said, adding that more than 200 foreign vessels had been fishing illegally in the EEZ on annual basis.

He, however, said that according to the Deep Sea Authority Act of 2007, the minimal fine imposed on pirate vessel was 20bn/- in which the maximum penalty was to nationalise the vessel or both.

Earlier, Keith Govender the four-nation surveillance operation leader, while briefing the Minister said the vessel started speeding off as they approached it and switched off the radar, a practice he said was unacceptable in the waters.

"We decided to use our tube boat to follow them and when they saw us with guns they stopped the ship," said Keith.

He said when confronted to produce working licenses and permit, they had none.

Ministers responsible for marine fisheries of the Southern Africa Development Community region agreed in July last year to conduct joint patrol among member states bordering the Indian Ocean to eliminate illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing in the EEZ.

Tanzania benefits little from marine resources because of unscrupulous distant fishing vessels with the fishing sector contributing 1.6 per cent to the Gross Domestic Product.

The Guardian

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