The owners of four foreign registered fishing trawlers impounded by a joint task force that included SA Navy platforms have paid fines totalling over R700 000, but the vessels are still in East London harbour pending release by SAMSA (SA Maritime Safety Authority).
Bomikazi Molapo, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) ministerial spokeswoman, said fines in excess of R700 000 had been paid following the impounding of the trawlers last month.
The fines were issued in connection with possession of fishing gear aboard without the necessary permits, not complying with lawful instructions from fisheries control officers and “possible infringements” of international conservation and management measures in or outside South African waters.
Molapo said the fines had been paid but the four vessels were still alongside in East London and would only depart once SAMSA had completed its business with the owners.
Sicelo Fayo, Content Manager: SAMSA Centre for Maritime Excellence, told defenceWeb it was “more an issue of communications rather than payment of fines” and once this has been cleared the vessels would be allowed to leave.
As far as the catch aboard, in the region of 600 tons of squid, was concerned, Molapo said scientists had checked thoroughly and the catch was not found to have been taken in South African waters.
“Accordingly, it was not confiscated and is still aboard.”
The SA Navy replenishment vessel, SAS Drakensberg (A301), accompanied by the DAFF vessel Sarah Baartman, approached and escorted the four trawlers – Fu Yuan Yu 7880, Fu Yuan Yu 7881 and Run Da 617 – off the coast of East London in the fourth week of May.
DAFF Minister Senzeni Zokwana said the capture of the vessels indicated the seriousness with which South Africa protected its territorial waters and exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
“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,” he said.