27 December 2012

Tanzania: State to Repatriate Illegal Fishermen

Photo: Tommy Trenchard/IRIN
Woman walks past fish laid out (file photo): Illegal fishing rampant in Tanzania waters.

AUTHORITIES in Rukwa Region have opted to repatriate 28 illegal fishermen to Zambia instead of charging them in the country's courts.

Rukwa Regional Police Commander (RPC), Mr Jacob Mwaruanda told this paper that all the 28 fishermen were caught fishing inside Tanzania's at Kasanga village along the shores of Lake Tanganyika in Kalambo District, Rukwa Region.

Mr Mwaruanda said that they deemed it wise to repatriate the illegal fishermen instead of arraigning them in court despite the fact that the state had already started preparing charges against the suspects. The move to repatriate the illegal fishermen will also maintain peace and good neighbourly relations with Zambia where the suspects hail from.

"People here live in harmony with their neighbours from each side of the border and so the regional authorities thought it would have been wiser to just repatriate the suspects and drop the charges against them," he said.

The suspects were arrested on Sunday around 5:00 am at Kasanga village in two canoes and had already made catch of 520 kg of different species of fish. Authorities had also impounded the canoes and other fishing gears that were found with the suspects, according to witnesses from the scene.

An official with the unit, Mr Bakari Luela, had told this paper that all the 28 fishermen were interrogated at Kasanga Police Post while waiting to be transported to Matai and Sumbawanga Police stations in the region for further interrogations.

Mr Luela had observed that all the suspects will be charged in court once investigations are completed. According to sources from villages in the area, there is a huge presence of fishermen from neighbouring Zambia, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) who enter the country's waters illegally.

Suspicions abound that some of the aliens are secretly harboured by villagers in Kalambo and Nkasi districts in Rukwa Region as well as in Mpanda District in Katavi Region. It is alleged that the aliens later appear in public as Tanzanian nationals and carry out fishing activities without legal permits.

The sources further claimed that the catch by the illegal fishermen who are harboured by locals is normally sold in neighbouring countries where it gets higher price. There are also suspicions that a section of leaders in Rukwa Region tend to exert their influence and pressurise authorities to free the fishermen once they are caught.

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