Members of the FISH-i Africa Task Force met in Mozambique on 26-28 June 2018 to discuss ongoing investigations and to develop plans to strengthen this regional cooperation to stop illegal fishing. Mozambique’s Minister of the Sea, Inland Waters and Fisheries, Agostinho Mondlane, welcomed the Task Force to Maputo, stressing the important role it continues to play in identifying and preventing illegal fishing in the Western Indian Ocean. “I warmly thank Stop Illegal Fishing for the cooperation that has developed between us and congratulate the members of FISH-i for their selfless efforts in the eradication of illegal fishing in the region and beyond. It is crucial that governments and development partners cooperate to ensure the sustainable exploitation of the sea to promote a robust and prosperous regional economy, for the benefit of our peoples and nations, today, tomorrow and forever.
Mozambique will host the Regional Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Coordination Centre (RMCSCC) of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), to be built in KaTembe, Maputo. Plans to incorporate the FISH-i Task Force into the Centre are underway and this continued collaboration was welcomed by Minister Mondlane, “We are excited that the region is to be served by a regional centre with modern infrastructure. This will substantially improve our ability to monitor fishing activity at sea. This will be further improved by the planned cooperation with FISH-i Africa and will translate into increased action against poachers in our marine waters.”
Speaking at the meeting SADC Technical Adviser for Fisheries, Motseki Hlatshwayo stated, “This meeting comes at an opportune time when the SADC Ministers responsible for Fisheries have tasked the SADC Secretariat to strengthen regional collaboration and create sustainable partnerships in improving fisheries MCS. Partnership with Stop Illegal Fishing and FISH-i Africa is of particular importance; FISH-i Africa has demonstrated the benefits of regional cooperation, through many successful cases and bringing illegal operators to book. We now look forward to bringing this cooperation and momentum into the RMCSCC in Mozambique and expanding its impact and geographic area to benefit all SADC Member States.”
Mr Hlatshwayo added, “These efforts will ensure that our regional integration agenda is amplified and that we achieve our regional goals, which focus on addressing the triple ills of poverty, unemployment and inequality.”
The meeting gave an opportunity for Task Force members to advance plans for VIGILANCE, FISH-i’s vessel validation process. A working group has been tasked with developing the procedures for due diligence, document verification and vessel inspections that will support the implementation of Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA) in the region. Per Erik Bergh, Stop Illegal Fishing, stated, “Since FISH-i was established in 2012 we have amassed a wealth of information on how the illegal operators get away with their crimes and with fishing illegally. VIGILANCE will tackle this head on, by identifying false information and forged or fake documents. By providing expertise and support to national fisheries officers we can identify the vessels that should not be allowed to fish.”
The meeting welcomed observers from Sea Shepherd Global who have partnered with Tanzania and FISH-i Africa on ‘Operation Jodari’ to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in the exclusive economic zone of Tanzania. The OCEAN WARRIOR, Sea Shepherd’s custom built patrol vessel, has provided the platform for at-sea inspections of fishing vessels and to date has resulted in the arrest of two industrial fishing vessels and twenty-seven dhows smuggling fish and trafficking illegal timber. Fines have been issued issued amounting to more than 19 billion Tanzanian shillings, which is over 8 million US dollars. Captain Peter Hammarstedt said, “Operation Jodari has already had a significant impact on illegal fishing activity in Tanzania, disrupting shark finning operations and exposing forced labour on board vessels. At this meeting we have been able to share our experiences with other members of the FISH-i Task Force, many of whom do not have at-sea enforcement capacity.”
Hosea Gonza Mblini, retired Director General of the Deep Sea Fishing Authority in Tanzania said, “Having the OCEAN WARRIOR patrolling in our EEZ has been a major win against illegal fishing. It is the first time since independence that we have been able to conduct patrols and has given us the opportunity to bring all the relevant agencies together to check on how fishing vessels are operating at sea. ‘Operation Jodari’ was initiated by the National Multi-Agency Task Team in Tanzania who have played a critical role in tackling wildlife and environmental crime. We must also acknowledge the key role played by the Drug Control Enforcement Agency without whom this operation would not have been possible.”
Commenting on the positive outcomes from ‘Operation Jodari’ Elsa Patria, Chair of Stop Illegal Fishing noted, “We would like to applaud Tanzania for this affirmative action. It is these unique partnerships and solutions that will lead to new and more effective success.”
OCEAN WARRIOR at port in Maputo for the duration of the meeting gave FISH-i members the chance to tour the vessel and to meet the crew. Captain Adam Meyerson also welcomed Minister Mondlane on board. Following a briefing on ‘Operation Jodari’ the Minister commented, “As we all know, the Indian Ocean is a place of abundant and diversified fishery resources whose commercial value has made the region one of the main targets of illegal fishing in the world. We welcome the support of Sea Shepherd in the region to help rid our waters of these criminal elements.”
Established cooperation between the FISH-i and West Africa Task Forces has proved beneficial for the sharing of intelligence and information to support investigations and enforcement action, most recently in the case of the STS-50. The meeting welcomed a member of the West Africa Task Force, Glasgow Togba of Liberia as an observer to the FISH-i meeting, which provided opportunity for discussions sharing of experiences.
Concluding the meeting the Task Force agreed a set of priorities for future collaboration in the Western Indian Ocean to stop illegal fishing, these include: roadmapping the cooperation with the SADC, accelerating the development of VIGILANCE, improving understanding of the role of flag States, assessing the extent and challenges related to shark finning in the region, and expanding regional inspections.