A joint operation between Tanzanian authorities, international conservation organisation Sea Shepherd and the FISH-i Africa Task Force has undertaken a three-week at-sea patrol targeting fishing vessels active in Tanzania’s national waters.
‘Operation Jodari’ has enabled officials from the Multi-Agency Task Team (MATT), the Deep Sea Fishing Authority (DSFA) and the Tanzanian Navy to operate from the Ocean Warrior, Sea Shepherd’s custom-built civilian offshore patrol vessel.
In total seven fishing vessels and one general cargo carrier, have been boarded and inspected, of which five were deemed to be operating within the law whilst two vessels were subject to further scrutiny and investigation.
Assistant Inspector Juma Said Mhada, MATT Secretary, stated, “Operation Jodari has provided the opportunity to make checks on the fishing vessels we licence to make sure they are complying with national and international regulations. Sadly we have discovered a number of vessels where this is not the case. Inspections of the BUAH NAGA NO 1 and TAI HONG NO 1 revealed violations of fisheries regulations as well as human rights abuses.” Juma added, “We have been very concerned about the evidence of abuse of crew and intimidation of observers. It is distressing to see the living and working conditions that crew, trapped on board these vessels, endure.”
12 Tanzanian nationals report being transhipped between fishing vessels as the operators became aware of the presence of the Ocean Warrior in the region. “There was a deliberate attempt to keep the Tanzanian crew away from our inspectors. Our interviews with the crew have revealed a catalogue of mistreatment from inadequate sleeping quarters to being deprived of food and water” said Hosea Gonza Mbilinyi, Acting Director General of the DFSA. “In addition 14 Indonesian crew from Malaysian longliner BUAH NAGA NO 1 have made similar reports of abuse and are currently in Tanzania waiting for repatriation to Indonesia.”
Evidence of ‘shark finning’ was found on the vessels with significant quantities of detached fins on board in contravention of Tanzanian regulations and Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) conservation and management measures. Per Erik Bergh, FISH-i Africa commented, “Shark finning is a cruel and wasteful practice which is damaging not only to shark populations but also to the marine ecosystem. We need fishers to respect these predators and respect the regulations.”
Juvenile dolphins were also discovered on the BUAH NAGA NO 1, “The dolphin meat was prepared for export, most likely to Taiwan where there is demand for dolphin meat,” commented Bergh.
Operation Jodari has also led to a USD 50 000 fine being paid to the DFSA by the owners of longliner JIN SHENG NO 2 for not allowing the Tanzanian observer access to the bridge and for mistreatment of their crew.
Operation Jodari will continue to monitor all fishing activity in the region; Assistant Inspector Mhada commented, “We have seen a move of fishing vessels away from the Tanzanian exclusive economic zone as the fishing operators have found out that Sea Shepherd is working with the Tanzanian authorities. We have been monitoring with interest the vessels that appear to want to avoid the oversight of the authorities and will be undertaking further checks to make sure that any violations are identified.”