Fishermen slam slow response to reports of trawlers along coast

Fisherfolk protested at Durban's beachfront on Sunday, saying the Department of Fisheries has failed them.

LOCAL fishermen made a stand at the beachfront on Sunday as they protested the slow reaction by the Minister of Forestry and Fisheries to take action against a number of Chinese fishing trawlers which were spotted in local waters along the coastline.

According to Des D’ Sa from South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA), the Minister had failed local fishermen who had spotted the trawlers and suspected they were fishing illegally along the South Coast and had brought it to the attention of the Fisheries Department.

“Fishing communities all along the coast believe government has acted too little too late. This has been an ongoing problem for the past few years. Local fishermen have seen through illegal fishing, shoals of sardines and other species of fish have disappeared over the years and they have wondered why? The Chinese and other foreign trawlers that have fished on the coastline have for years using gilled nets and robust fishing equipment, and have raped the ocean for these species of fish depriving the local population who pay for licenses and permits,” said D’ Sa.

He said the Department of Fisheries was aware of the situation and should have been prepared by having security fishing boats guarding the coastline.

“Ironically South Africa has the most sophisticated submarines and patrol vessels. The question is why is this equipment not being utilised to serve its purpose to protect its people, marine species and coastline?” he said.

D’ Sa said fishermen wanted to know what the department was doing to prevent this from occurring again in the future.

“Who in the department will be held accountable for this fiasco? Fisher folk are calling for the heads of those who have knowingly done nothing about this situation. Fishermen are calling for the Chinese fishing trawlers to be sold off to defray expenses as well as set the example, that no illegal fishing will be allowed on our coastline,” he said.

The Department of Fisheries managed to capture one of the nine trawlers, Lu huang Yuan Yu 186 and escorted it to Cape Town harbour where authorities boarded the vessel and inspected it for illegal activities on Sunday.

According to reports no fish was found on board but fishing equipment was evident and SARS also fined the crew for a stash of tobacco and cigarettes found on board. Authorities also found dogs on board which they said were being kept in inhumane conditions.

The crew members will be charged under the Marine Living Resources Act for entering the South African Exclusive Economic Zone without permit. They will also be charged for not following instructions from compliance officers and for switching off their lights and tracking devices. Reports indicate the crew claimed to be on their way to the Congo where they say they have permission to fish.

The department confirmed that the other eight vessels which escaped belonged to the same company.

  AUTHOR
Lauren Walford
Journalist

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