A call for assistance to the SA Navy by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) to assist in monitoring and inspecting Chinese trawlers thought to be fishing illegally in South African waters is paying dividends.
The Navy’s supply and replenishment vessel SAS Drakensberg (A301) was late last week tasked to become the second naval vessel responding to the DAFF call. The Valour Class frigate SAS Amatola (F145) was the first warship deployed following the DAFF appeal just on two weeks ago.
Drakensberg earlier today escorted three Chinese fishing trawlers into East London harbour. Reports have it two fishing vessels were spotted on Friday and a decision was taken to approach them and halt their activities late on Sunday. A third, similar, vessel was observed during the approach and also taken under escort.
Last week another Chinese fishing vessel was escorted into Cape Town harbour by the DAFF vessel Victoria Mxenge.
Clarifying the Navy’s involvement in the operation, Captain Zamo Sithole said the maritime arm of the SA National Defence Force does not have any jurisdiction over illegal fishing in South Africa’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
“This responsibility lies directly with DAFF but the Navy is always ready to provide support to DAFF if asked.
“The Minister of Defence and Military Veterans (Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula) was requested by her DAFF counterpart (Senzeni Zokwana) to provide support to locate and a fleeting of fishing vessels suspected of fishing violations in South African waters.
“The SAS Amatola was tasked to assist DAFF. The SA Air Force (SAAF) was also tasked to provide both fixed wing and helicopter support to DAFF,” he said, adding the South African warships had been instructed to stand down if suspect vessels exited the South African exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
The operation continues.
The Chinese fishing vessel that was apprehended last week, Lu Huang Yuan Yu 186, will remain in South African custody until all fines imposed on its owners have been settled; or a court case is instituted, goes on trial and is concluded. This is according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority which on 18 May announced that it had found that the vessel to have contravened environmental laws governing the country’s territorial waters. However, no evidence was found of the vessel having fished in South African waters.
The vessel was charged with entering the South Africa’s Exclusive Economic Zone without the required permit and disobeying lawful instructions by a fishery control inspector. According to the DAFF, SARS fined the vessel R8 000 for tobacco and cigarette related charges and the SAPS was looking into the keeping of dogs on the vessel.
Lu Huang Yuan Yu 186 was part of a fleet of nine Chinese fishing vessels that evaded South African maritime authorities after switching off their Automatic Identification System (AIS) trackers. They were apparently on a delivery voyage to Angola.