Walvis Bay — Fisheries officials and the Namibian Navy seized six Chinese fishing vessels, pending an investigation into allegations of illegal fishing in Namibian waters.
The Chinese fishing vessels were found on Friday in the Namibian waters by naval officials carrying out routine sea patrols.
However, sources close to the investigation yesterday told New Era the said vessels have been illegally fishing in Namibian waters and have been under surveillance for a while.
"This is a very sensitive matter, as locals might also be involved in aiding the Chinese vessels in terms of fuel and food supplies," the source said yesterday. New Era was also reliably informed officials of the ministry are currently inspecting the vessels. However, no one has been arrested yet, but the vessels were brought closer to the shore for Namibian authorities to carry out a proper investigation.
Meanwhile, Chinese Embassy spokesperson Helen Lu, through a statement she issued on Saturday afternoon, refuted allegations of illegal fishing levelled against the seized ship, saying the vessels departed from Equatorial Guinea to China on 15 March.
According to Lu, due to strong waves, the boats chose to sail along the route near 23 degrees south latitude, which is 17 nautical miles from the Namibian coastline, where they were found by the patrolling Namibian navy early Friday morning and escorted to Walvis Bay for safety.
According to Lu, the embassy noticed the allegations that the six vessels were stealing fish from Namibian waters while the vessels were executing innocent navigation in Namibian waters without any wrongful acts.
"The continuous computer records of the fishing boats sailing route and the inspection result by the competent Namibian authority can be used as proof. Also, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea, foreign fishing boats enjoy the rights of innocent passage and freedom of navigation," Lu explained in a media statement.
The executive director of the fisheries ministry, Moses Maurihungirire, was contacted yesterday and has not yet responded to questions sent to him.
Spanish and Angolan trawlers have in the past also been seized for illegally fishing in Namibian waters.