Tanzania: Judge Wants Stiff Laws to Curb Illegal Fishing

The government has described illegal fishing as economic sabotage (file photo).

TANZANIAN Judge James Kateka of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) has called for enactment of stiff legislation to deter illegal fishing activities which have adverse impact in the country's economy.

Addressing Advocates and Maritime Law Professional at the Dar es Salaam Maritime Institute (DMI) in the city yesterday, Judge Kateka said that he was aware of the punishment or penalty provided for under Tanzania's laws for violations of the fishing laws of the coastal state.

However, Judge Kateka, who is the former Ambassador to Germany, Russian Federation and Sweden, was quick to point out that "owing to the seriousness of the violations of fishing laws of the coastal state, it has become necessary to deter illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing by enacting stiff legislation."

Under the Tanzania's Territorial Sea and Exclusive Economic Zone Act, 1989, in particular section 10(3), it is provided for a fine of 250,000 US dollars or imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or both for violations of fishing regulations.

Giving his experience on the International Tribunal's mandate, where he is currently working with, Judge Kateka pointed out that the ITLOS jurisprudence has centered mainly on fisheries disputes, cases being on prompt release of vessels, provisional measures, advisory opinion and the merits.

According to him, the nine cases on prompt release under Article 292 and Article 73 of the Convention on the Law of the Sea have been on the arrest of fishing vessels and such cases on release of vessels and crew have been without prejudice to the merits of any case before the appropriate domestic forum.

He pointed out further that the ITLOS has made important pronouncements on such kind of proceedings, which also concerned vessels fishing without authorisation and oil tankers supplying fuel oils without authorisation, notably the question of bunkering.

Judge Kateka disclosed among important pronouncements made by the Tribunal in prompt release cases as the non-admissibility of submissions concerning the alleged violations of Article 73 of the Convention, which prohibits detaining state of a vessel from imprisoning offenders.

"A similar problem arises with regard to confiscation of ships, whether fishing vessels or oil tankers.

Confiscation is not provided for among the penalties listed in Article 73 and other provisions of the Convection for violations such as marine pollution," he said.

Some of the commentators, he said, have argued that confiscation was implicitly permitted.

However, the judge said, by the Convention excluding penalties of imprisonment and corporal punishment, drafters would have stated in certain terms had they intended to exclude confiscation.

Ambassador Kateka is a Tanzanian Judge at the International Tribunal situated in Hamburg, Germany since 2005 to date.

The ITLOS is a fairly young court, with slightly over 20 years. Its workload is still limited when compared to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which has existed for over 70 years.

The Tribunal has compulsory residual power to deal with the prompt release of vessels and crew upon the payment of a reasonable bond or other financial security.

It also has residual compulsory competence for prescribing provisional measures pending the constitution of the arbitral tribunal.

It is stated that the ITLOS has made a significant contribution to the law of the sea through its interpretation and application of the Convention.

This judicial body has helped in bringing predictability and stability in the area of the law of the sea.

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