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Tanzania Captures IUU Tuna Vessel In Its EEZ

Preesident Jakaya Kikwete has personally thanked members of an international crew and their local counterparts for apprehending a large foreign vessel that has been illegally fishing within Tanzanian waters.

A 35-member crew from a foreign vessel, MV Tawariq I, was arrested on Sunday for harvesting tuna fish from within Tanzania’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the Indian Ocean without the relevant government permits,
the minister for Livestock Development and Fisheries, Mr. John Magufuli said in Dar es Salaam yesterday.
The illegal trawlers were nabbed with over 70 metric tons of tuna worth thousands of US dollars.
They will be prosecuted under both international and Tanzanian fishing laws. They will be charged with fishing in the protected exclusive economic zone.

Their vessel, christened Tawariq 1, is believed to be Vietnamese.

Mr. Magufuli said this is the first time in Tanzania’s history that a big vessel has been impounded allegedly for illegal fishing.
Often referred to as the ’gold mine’ of the ocean, tuna are one the world’s most expensive marine fish.

The vessel was apprehended following a special operation mounted by crew members from Tanzania, South Africa, Mozambique and Kenya.

The crew members were invited to State House in Dar es Salaam yesterday and received a presidential ’’Thank You.’’

The illegal trawlers were nabbed only on the second day of the operation, which seems to back widely-held assumptions that Tanzania is losing a fortune to illegal fishing every year.

The Fisheries Minister, who accompanied members of the crew to Ikulu said the illegal trawlers had no fishing license from Tanzania nor flew any flag.

The vessel has now been docked at the Dar es Salaam port pending further action by the government.

A crew of 35 foreigners in the trawler have been arrested by Tanzanian authorities. Their nationalities were not immediately known.

’’We have arrested these suspects who have turned our territorial waters into a fool’s land catching tuna and other species of fish at will,’’ said Mr. Magufuli.
The joint patrol team which impounded the vessel is made up of personnel from South Africa, Mozambique, Kenya and Tanzania. On of them is a woman.

"We have rewarded you in appreciation of your efforts to control crime at sea," Mr. Magufuli told one of the team member, Mr Robert Boqwana from Smith Marine in South Africa.

"We were en route to Kenya. We found them fishing and asked them (if they had any permits), but they responded in a strange language which we could not understand," he said

The minister revealed that  most of the arrested sailors refused to identify themselves to local authorities.
One of the arrested crew members who identified himself as Juma Kombo from Mombasa, claimed that he has been working with the foreigners for more than six months and paid $200 (Sh26,000) per month.
Mr. Magufuli warned that the era of illegal and unregulated fishing within the country’s EEZ was long gone.

He said the government would carry out a six-month campaign to reign in on illegal trawlers throughout the country’s waters.

He insisted that the arrested crew members of the trawler would face stern legal action.

’’We will first vaccinate them because only three of them are vaccinated and throw them in police detention before charging them for illegal fishing within our territorial waters,’’ he remarked.

The minister noted that the Deep Sea Fishing Act of 2007 was already in force and had adequate provisions to deal with illegal trawlers.

The Director of Fisheries, Augustine Nanyaro, said for a large vessel like the captured MV Tawariq to operate within the country’s EEZ per season, it needs to pay for a permit of between $5,000 and $35,000.

’’The licensing is done for a period ranging from a month to three months in a season and also depends on the type of vessel in use,’’ he explained.

The operation’s commander, Govender, said the captured ship is believed to have originated from an Asian country.

Experts estimate that Tanzania suffers more than $200m in lost revenue annually due to illegal foreign activities.
The Minister did not disclose the nationalities of the pirates.The tuna fishing season is between June and July when the fish migrate between the waters of Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique.