Fake licensing operation uncovered in Tanzania

Tanzania forged license map


A network distributing false Tanzanian licenses was exposed with at least ten vessels identified as fishing in Tanzanian waters with fraudulent fishing licenses. Corruption was uncovered and although the case has resulted in increased compliance and licence revenue to the Tanzanian Deep See Fisheries Authority (DSFA) the owners and operators of the vessels have to date evaded justice.

Key events

Mid 2012: Two tuna long liners were identified as fishing in Tanzanian waters without a license. The flag states were contacted and supplied copies of forged licences.

A network distributing false Tanzanian licenses was exposed. Nine further false licenses were identified, that resulted in Tanzania being denied USD 100 000 in revenue. Possible another twenty false licences had been issued to Taiwanese vessels. The vessels had the same agent and operator.

Investigations showed that these vessels did not report entry, exit, catch reports or VMS positions to Tanzanian authorities, requirements of Tanzanian licences. No payment for licenses had been made into the government account allocated for license fees, even though the agent and operator had used this account in the past. Still the operator of the vessels claimed that the licences to fish had been bought in good faith.

A junior staff member was initially arrested for forgery of license documents but later released and is now suspended. An arrest warrant was issued against the agent, but no arrest has yet been made.

2013-2014: The vessels were nominated for the IOTC provisional IUU fishing list in 2013 and were discussed further during the IOTC Compliance Committee and Commission meeting in May 2014. The flag states claimed to be investigating the cases. The vessels were removed from the provisional IUU fishing list in IOTC in 2014.

2015: The increase in Tanzania’s license revenue grew by USD 300 000.

What did FISH-i Africa do?

  • Tracked vessel and identified them illegally fishing
  • Investigated and identified the web of fraud licences
  • Advised the DSFA on charging the owner, agent and operator of the two vessels for IUU fishing
  • INTERPOL cooperation facilitated and request for cooperation and information sent from Tanzania to Taiwan
  • Briefed senior police officers and the Attorney General in Tanzania about the case
  • Continued and on-going investigations and cooperation with special police units in Tanzania
  • Investigated the vessel owners and linked people and companies
  • Undertook financial screening of relevant people and companies


At a time when the threat of piracy was considered to be the reason for low numbers of fishing vessels obtaining licences to fish in the Tanzanian EEZ, a large organised network distributing fake documents through corrupt practises was exposed. As a direct result of this exposure many vessels that had been fishing in Tanzanian waters with fraudulent fishing licenses became increasingly anxious and have now obtained legal fishing licenses from the Tanzanian authorities, increasing their revenue. Improved licencing procedures have been introduced in Tanzania, and a Multi Agency Task Team (MATT) has been established to deal with organised environmental crimes.