Maputo — A joint team involving the environmental organisation Greenpeace international and a group of inspectors from the Mozambican Ministry of Fisheries on Sunday concluded a mission patrolling Mozambique's territorial waters.
The mission, which began on 6 September, operated with the Greenpeace boat "Rainbow Warrior", with a crew of 28, from 18 countries, including Mozambique, the United States, Britain, Spain, Italy, Bulgaria, Russia, Canada and New Zealand.
The patrol used a helicopter stationed on board the "Rainbow Warrior" , which allowed the team to cover a very extensive area of the Mozambique Channel.
Speaking at a Maputo press conference on Sunday, Joao Senete, of the National Inspection Directorate of the Ministry of Fisheries, explained that the mission was part of the Mozambican government's efforts to combat illegal fishing and to ensure that fishing in Mozambican territorial waters takes place in accordance with the country's laws.
"That's why we signed a memorandum of understanding with Greenpeace", he said.
The joint mission, which was under the command of the Mozambican inspectors, was intended to patrol Mozambican waters and inspect foreign vessels, most of which are fishing for tuna and sharks. Due to lack of resources, large areas of Mozambique's territorial waters are not regularly patrolled, which makes them attractive to illegal fishing vessels.
"Currently fishing boats are looting tuna, sharks and other spcies from the Indian Ocean. We have to stop the boats that are continuing to violate the laws", said "Rainbow Warrior" crew member and Greenpeace activist, Paloma Colmenarejo. "Our oceans which are a source of employment and food for billions of people need adequate control and inspection'.
For two weeks, the mission covered an area of about 133,500 square kilometres, from Ponta de Ouro in the far south of Mozambique to the mouth of the Save River in the centre of the country. This area is about a third of Mozambique's territorial waters.
The mission inspected four vessels, three of them Japanese, and the fourth Spanish. The vessel "Fukuseki Maru no. 27", a fishing boat owned by the Japanese company Fukuseki Maru, refused to cooperate, and declined to allow the inspectors to weigh the shark fins found on board.
This refusal violates one of the conditions under which fishing licences are granted. The Mozambican authorities are now assessing what legal measures can be taken against Fukuseki Maru.
The main targets for fishing boats in Mozambican waters are tuna, swordfish and sharks - the latter because of their fins, which are considered a delicacy in Asia. Overfishing is pushing certain species of fish, including tuna, to the brink of extinction.
"Illegal fishing is a serious problem in the waters of coastal countries which face a limited capacity to monitor the fishing vessels', said Colmanarejo. "The boats are stealing fish in the Indian Ocean, depriving the coastal countries of the revenue they need".
In general Greenpeace made a positive assessment of the situation in Mozambique, since the mission did not detect any illegal fishing apart from the Japanese vessel which refused to allow its cargo to be weighed.
But that was no reason to celebrate, because many boats may have temporarily abandoned the area due to the end of the tuna fishing season.
For a better assessment, further inspections would be necessary.