East London – Three Chinese fishing vessels caught in South African waters without permits have been released after paying a R1.3 million fine, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said on Thursday.They had gear and fish on board without the requisite permits. Two of the ships’ masters were further found guilty of non-compliance with a fishery officer’s instructions.The masters of all three vessels appeared in the East London Magistrate’s Court two weeks ago. They were found to have contravened the Marine Living Resources Act and SA Maritime Safety Authority legislation covering threats of environmental pollution and degradation. “We cannot tolerate the plundering of our marine resources, which are a source of food security and play a huge role in realising our goals in Operation Phakisa. We are also looking into the sudden influx of these vessels in our waters,” the department said in a statement.The vessels were spotted during a patrol by the department and the navy along the South African coastline in May. They tried to get away, but were intercepted and forced to dock in East London.Because the fish were caught elsewhere, authorities had no legal grounds to confiscate them.The Fu Yuan Yu had 340 tons of squid on board, the Fu Yang Yu 60 tons of squid, and the Run Da 200 tons of squid and various other species. The vessels had 36, 34, and 26 crew members.