The three foreign fishing vessels, escorted into East London harbour earlier this week by the SA Navy replenishment vessel and the DAFF vessel, Sarah Baartman, were carrying 600 tons of squid as well as other fish caught illegally.
The vessels have been inspected and searched by a team comprising representatives of the SA Police Service, SARS Customs, Department of Home Affairs (Immigration) and the SA Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA).
The vessels – Fu Yuan Yu 7880, Fu Yuan Yu 7881 and Run Da 617 – were picked up off the coast of East London using the Automated Identification System (AIS) fitted on the SAS Drakensberg (A301). According to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), the lead agency in the operation, it was established that the foreign vessels had “gear on board and had not applied to enter South Africa’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ)”.
Rough seas made boarding impossible and fishery control officers maintained radio contact with the Chinese trawlers. When they increased speed the Drakensberg and Sarah Baartman responded and intercepted before taking up position for escort duties to East London.
The sighting and reaction to the illegal presence of foreign vishing vessels in South African waters has again highlighted the importance of proper patrolling to prevent illegal fishing and poaching of maritime resources – a major component of the blue economy sector of Operation Phakisa.
DAFF is tasked with fisheries protection and this is the tasking assigned to its three inshore protection vessels (IPVs) and the single offshore protection vessel (OPV). The IPVs are Lillian Ngoyi, Ruth First and Victoria Mxenge launched between November 2004 and June 2005.
They are each capable of operating up to 200 nautical miles from the coast and can work comfortably in tropical waters. They are designed to stay at sea for up to 14 days and have a range of 3 500 nautical miles at 15 knots. They are each equipped with a 7,5m rigid inflatable boat.
In addition to their role as fisheries protection vessels, they are equipped to carry out sea rescues and disperse oil spills. They are each fitted with a powerful firefighting monitor as well as 10 000 litres of oil dispersant chemicals.
RIBs on board allow fisheries protection officers to board and inspect fishing boats. The IPVs are also deployed as rescue craft, or to allow inspectors to move close inshore at high speeds.
Sarah Baartman, an 80m OPV, was delivered to South Africa from the Netherlands in 2004. She is the largest in South Africa’s fleet of fisheries protection vessels. The Sarah Baartman has been designed to patrol in the vicinity of Prince Edward and Marion Islands and monitors fishing activities on the high seas.
Sarah Baartman has a range of 7 500 nautical miles at 15 knots and can remain at sea for up to 45 days. Her top speed is 22 knots. She is also equipped for oil spill counter-measure work, firefighting and search and rescue operations. She has limited towing capacity.
Sarah Baartman has the capacity to land and refuel a helicopter and can launch two 7,5 m inflatable craft. A small onboard hospital provides medical facilities.
The small size of the DAFF fleet saw it call on the maritime arm of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) for assistance in the latest and currently still underway tasking. The SA Navy despatched the Valour Class frigate SAS Amatola (F145) which was joined by Drakensberg a few days later.
To date the operation has seen four foreign fishing trawlers impounded.