Maputo — Mozambique is losing at least 60 million US dollars a year because of illegal fishing, according to the Minister of the Sea, Inland Waters and Fisheries, Agostinho Mondlane.
Speaking in Maputo on Tuesday at the opening of the seventh meeting of Fish-i Africa, a partnership of eight east African countries, Mondlane said the scale of economic losses "raises great challenges for us in monitoring our immense maritime waters".
He declared that unity between African counties bordering the Indian Ocean would be one of the most effective ways of fighting illegal and unreported fishing.
"We should take on individual and collective responsibility for defending the noble interests of our peoples and nations", he said, warning that illegal fishing corrodes the economy, and holds back the development, not only of Mozambique, but of the region and of the continent.
Mondlane welcomed the election of Mozambique as the host country for the Regional Fishing Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Centre of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The centre will be installed in the Maputo urban district of Katembe, and Mondlane declared its purpose is "to do away with illicit activity in the region".
The Minister stressed it is crucial that governments and development partners should cooperate and work together to exploit maritime resources sustainably, promoting the development of a robust and prosperous regional economy.
Fighting against illegal fishing, he claimed, will help increase food production, and thus strengthen food and nutritional security.
Mondlane said that Fish-i Africa has been playing a key role in the fight against illegal fishing with the use of modern monitoring and surveillance tools. Thanks to this regional platform, he said, "it was possible to monitor and capture vessels that invaded our territorial waters such as, for example, the "Thunder", the "Nessa 7" and the "STS 50".'
Fish-i Africa identified the "Nessa 7" as a "high risk vessel" in December 2015. It was tracked across Namibia and South African waters and boarded when it entered Mozambican waters in late December 2015. Evidence of multiple fisheries infringements was found, and the boat was seized by the Mozambican state.
The "STS 50" entered port in Madagascar in February 2018, where fisheries inspectors confirmed that is was a vessel listed for illegal fishing and previously known under other names (the "Andrey Dolgov", the "Ayda" and the "Sea Breez 1").
The "STS 50" slipped across the Mozambique Channel, tracked by Fish-i Africa. When it tried to obtain provisions in Mozambique, it was seized. But it fled onto the high seas, and was forced to refuel at sea. Mozambique requested assistance from other Fish-i Africa members to re-arrest it. The ship was then successfully tracked across the Indian Ocean, until it was arrested by the Indonesian navy.
The third vessel, the "Thunder" was one of a number of illegal vessels linked to the company Vidal Armadores in Spain. It was illegally fishing for Patagonian toothfish in the Southern Ocean, when an Interpol notice to seize the ship was issued in 2013. Fish-i Africa does not seem to have been directly involved in the subsequent 110 day chase from Antarctic waters to West Africa where the captain scuttled it off the coast of Sao Tome and Principe.
Elsa Nhambe, the chairperson of the "Stop illegal Fishing" network, the body which gave rise to Fish-i Africa, told the Monday meeting that poor governance, illicit trade and illegal fishing are undermining legal fishing activity in Mozambique.
Illegal fishing, she said, "undermines the sustainable management of our fishery resources and worsens poverty".
It also had a long term negative impact on the marine environment and contributed to the dumping of plastic and fishing nets at sea.