Following recent arrests of Tanzanian-flagged vessels involved in the smuggling of drugs and explosive materials, authorities have acted to suspend the operations of the Zanzibar Maritime Authority (ZMA) and have announced a thorough review of all vessels operating under the Tanzanian flag.

Newly appointed Vice-President, Samia Suluhu Hassan, speaking in Dar es Salaam announced plans to establish a joint committee comprising representatives from both Tanzania mainland and Zanzibar to conduct verification of vessel registration with due diligence. “The committee will verify information of all vessels registered in our country, look into their entire registration procedures and finally give the recommendations and advice to the government,” the Vice-President stated.

A Presidentially appointed parliamentary committee met earlier this week to look into the reasons why Tanzania is not benefitting more from their marine sector and the reputational damage resulting from vessels engaging in illegal activities was high on the agenda.

The Vice President commented, “It might be that the foreign owners of the ships prefer registering their vessels in Tanzania instead of their countries because of weaknesses in our laws.” Illegal operators have long taken advantage of flag States who are unable or unwilling to enforce national and international responsibilities.

Elsa Patria, Chair of Stop Illegal Fishing commented, “This strong action by Tanzania demonstrates a real commitment to tackling some of the systematic illegalities in the fishing sector that FISH-i Africa has documented over the last few years. We will continue to work closely with the authorities in Tanzania to ensure that all vessels licensed and flagged in the region are legitimate, safe and comply with the laws and regulations.”

Hosea Gonza Mbilinyi, Acting Director General of the Deep Sea Fishing Authority (DSFA) which manages fisheries within the EEZ of the United Republic of Tanzania, emphasised the importance of verifying information relating to fishing vessels supplied to vessel registries. “Time after time we see that false information, fraudulently obtained or forged documents are used to gain access to our flag and our fisheries resources. This has to stop, and the DFSA will be working closely with our partners nationally, regionally and internationally to ensure it does. In my roles as Chairman of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) Compliance Committee as well as the Chairman of the South West Indian Ocean Fisheries Committee Working Party on Collaboration and Cooperation on Tuna Fisheries I see the determination in the region to work together and to share information and intelligence so we can stop the illegal operators.”

Per Erik Bergh of Stop Illegal Fishing commented, “We really welcome this announcement from the Vice President and the commitment it demonstrates to cleaning up the fisheries sector. Vessels operating illegally or under false identities undermine the sustainable management of the fishery and stop Tanzania from benefitting from their resources. FISH-i Africa has developed a programme of VIGILANCE in response to the investigations undertaken in the region. We are delighted to have this opportunity to work closely with the Tanzanian authorities to ensure that only legitimate operators are allowed to fish, and that they comply with all laws.”