Maputo — Illegal fishing in Mozambican waters results in losses of 57 million US dollars annually. This is partly due to the lack of effective maritime surveillance along the 2,800-kilometre coastline.
According to the national director of operations in the Ministry of the Sea, Inland Waters and Fisheries, Leonild Chimarizene, the Mozambican coast is unusual as berthing is possible practically anywhere. In most other countries mooring has to take place in a port.
Chimarizene explained that “this means that we have to have inspectors all along the coast. This is one of the challenges that we have in order to combat illegal fishing. However, we are working to overcome this problem through community fisheries councils.
He gave as an example the community fisheries council in Costa do Sol, a neighbourhood of the capital city Maputo. In this area, local fishermen are involved in looking out for and denouncing illegal fishing.
Authorities are particularly concerned by the influx of recreational boats, mainly from South Africa, which complicates the drive to reduce illegal fishing. Some of these boats are used to hide various types of illegal activities, including trafficking contraband, sailing in prohibited areas, and fishing protected species.
According to the weekly newspaper “Domingo”, these boats transport hidden passengers and illicit materials, violate the laws of navigation and protection against pollution, fail to respect customs regulations, and do not comply with inspection requirements.
In addition, Mozambican waters are invaded by unlicensed fishing vessels that deplete fish and prawn stocks. These vessels often use unacceptable methods and at times abandon nets in the sea.
Some of the larger boats have the facility to process fish on board. For example, on 30 September fishing inspectors seized two boats from the Comoro Islands which had on board between 300 and 400 kilogrammes of fish each. They were both fined five thousand dollars and their fishing gear confiscated. In addition, a lawsuit is currently being filed against the owners.
For artisanal fishermen, fines have improved significantly: if they are caught in the act the fines are imposed and their fishing gear is confiscated.
So far this year, fines have been handed out to 32 small scale fishermen, which is a reduction on last year due to better surveillance. A further eight fines were imposed on semi-industrial fishing boats, and three tuna boats were caught presenting false declarations on the quantities of fish caught.