Tons of squid, fish found on 3 captured Chinese vessels

2016-05-23 18:03
(Duncan Alfreds, News24)

(Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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East London - About 600 tons of squid and other fish species have been confiscated after three foreign fishing vessels were captured at the weekend.

Following a chase at sea, the Chinese vessels were currently berthed at the East London Port.

Two foreign vessels were spotted on a navy vessel's automated identification system on the Eastern Cape coastline on Friday, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries spokesperson Bomikazi Molapo said in a statement.

"We established that the vessels had gear on board and we verified that they had not applied to enter into our Exclusive Economic Zone, which created suspicion," she said.

"The seas were rough, which made it impossible for our inspectors to board the vessels. Our fishery control officers instructed the vessels through radio communication to sail to East London Port, but they did not co-operate."

The department's patrol vessel and a navy vessel engaged in a high-speed chase to intercept the foreign vessels which were attempting to flee.

The vessels stopped and switched off their engines, but on Sunday at 02:00 restarted them and tried to flee towards the east, Molapo said.

No permits

"The two foreign vessels were followed throughout the early hours of the morning and they were intercepted again, and fortunately this time the weather had improved and the fisheries inspectors and the SA Navy officials boarded the foreign vessels."

Fish and gear were found on both vessels without permits. 

As the two vessels were escorted to East London, another foreign fishing vessel was spotted going in a different direction.

Inspectors discovered that the vessel also had no permit.

Once all three vessels had docked, law enforcement agencies conducted a thorough inspection of the vessels.

Aboard the Fu Yuan Yu 7880 was 340 tons of squid with 36 crew; on the Fu Yang Yu 7881 about 60 tons of squid were found with 34 crew; and on the Run Da 617 about 200 tons of squid and other species of fish were found with 26 crew.

"Currently all the fish holding cabins have been sealed off as required by investigation standards. As part of further investigations... all fish will be taken out of the vessels for further identification, counting and weighing," Molapo said.

Threat to food security

Those apprehended faced possible charges of possession of gear without a permit, non-compliance with the instruction from the fishery control officer, and possible infringements in terms of the International Conservation and Management Measures inside or outside South African waters. Other charges may also be added.

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana said the "plundering of our marine resources" could not be tolerated as it was a source of food security.

"The capturing of these vessels indicates our seriousness as a country to protect our territorial and exclusive economic zone," he said.

The South African Maritime Safety Authority would be conducting a survey of the vessels on Monday.

The inspection would consider crew safety, pollution threat, vessel safety standards and all related matters in terms of international conventions, as well as South African Maritime Law, said principal officer at the Centre for Fishing in East London, Thobile Gqabu.

Read more on:    east london  |  crime  |  maritime

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