Not only has illegal fishing affected Tanzania’s full potential utilization of the EEZ, but it has also undermined the country’s obligation to ensure the regulation of certain activities in the zone such as marine scientific research, protection and preservation of the marine environment, marine life and the freedom of navigation and over-flight.
Many factors have contributed to this state of affairs, according to the fisheries department, which is charged with enforcement of laws pertaining to the sea.
This was laid bare at a recent three-day Regional Training Workshop on the Human Rights and Wellness of the Fisherfolk within the Context of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Work Fishing Convention 2007, which was organised by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in Mombasa, Kenya.
Tanzania Fisheries and Aquatic Environment Organisation (TAFAEO) official Dr. Benjamin Ngatunga told the Guardian that if the government of Tanzania wanted to benefit from its marine resources in the Exclusive Economic Zone(EEZ) it should revisit and reverse all the contracts entered by foreign fishing vessels.
He said it was high time the government of Tanzania gave the Deep Sea Fishing Authority more powers and mandate to undertake stock assessment of its fishery resources.
“It has not yet determined its total allowable catch but it grants foreign access to its fisheries. These foreign fishing vessels are operating without proper checks or monitoring mechanism, which implies that the size and type of fish being harvested are not known,” he said.
He said the Tanzanian Deep Sea Authority had failed to work efficiently because it does not have vessels for monitor fish stocks in the EEZ.
This practice affects the sustainability of the resources since no scientific assessment of Tanzania’s fishery resources has ever been conducted. Compounding the above problems is the illegal harvesting of the resources by both licensed and unlicensed fishing fleets in the country’s EEZ.
These illegal fleets were then ordered to leave Tanzanian waters. Most of them were licensed in Mauritius and sailed in Tanzania’s EEZ absolutely unmonitored. Of these illegal fishing vessels, some were licensed in Comoro and Seychelles, and entered the Tanzanian EEZ, taking advantage of undefined boundaries.
“It is important for the authority to have the power to negotiate with those foreign fishing vessels to know the contents of their contracts because, as of now, we only benefit from licence fees we get from the foreign fishing vessels,” he noted.
He said according to the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), each country is supposed to be allocated an area in the EEZ and fish only the allowable amount of fish.
Dr Ngatunga said it was not proper for IOTC to tell Tanzania the amount of fish it was supposed to catch from its EEZ, because Tanzania, as a country, had the mandate to decide the amount of fish it wanted to catch and should therefore not be directed by IOTC as was the case currently.
He said Tanzania’s fishing contracts, like Kenya’s, were not similar to those of Mozambique and Seychelles. When Tanzania and Kenya only benefit from the licence fees they get from foreign fishing fleets in Mozambique and Seychelles they have entered into partnership agreements with fishing fleets. So, there is a kind of a win-win situation among them.
The other challenge that makes Tanzania not benefit from its marine resources, according to Dr Ngatunga, was the absence of a landing ground for catches, as a result most foreign fishing vessels have been fishing in our EEC and then go to offload their catches in other countries and not Tanzania.
“The presence of a fishing harbour or landing ground will attract more foreign fishing vessels which will comply to our requirements,” he stressed, adding:
“More importantly, investment in the EEZ requires big capital and high technology. I am sure if our fishermen are subsidized, they will perform as well as what other foreign fishing vessels are doing,” he pointed out.
“If we want to benefit from our marine resources, we need to invest heavily. Investing in the EEZ will enable us to sell our catches in the international market where they are also selling,” he said.
He was optimistic that if the government decided to facilitate locals to fish in the EEZ, the fishery subsector would quickly outstrip the livestock sector in earnings.
Commenting on the importance of the WWF’s training, Dr Ngatunga said that it was educative and an eye-opener, that the fisheries sector was like other formal sectors in generating employment.
“The fisheries sector needs to be formalized so that it rightly contributes to the national income,” he noted.
“If a fisherman is known to the respective authorities it would be one of the ways of curbing blast fishing, which has become a major problem only in Tanzania, while in other countries it does not exist,” added.
He therefore, said that the ratification of the ILO Convention No.188 of 2007 was very vital because if it is customized in the country, it will enable the fishers to have contractual jobs-which will help them even after retirement-because there is life after fishing.
“Let’s make our fishermen to have rights for their fishing works. We want the fisheries to be very formal; should employ by following all procedures of employing.
For her part, the only African woman inspector with the International Transport Federation (ITF), Betty Makena commended the ILO work Fish Convention 2007 (No.188), saying the ratification of ILO Convention 188 came into force on 16th November 2017 after being ratified by ten ILO member states.
It’s applicable to all types of commercial fishing and establishes minimum standards that protect fishers in all aspects of their work.
It sets international standards for: safety on board fishing vessels food, accommodation and medical care at sea employment practices, insurance and liability.
She further said that the convention aims to ensure that fishers: have improved occupational safety and health and medical care at sea, and that sick or injured fishers receive care ashore; receive sufficient rest for their health and safety; have the protection of a written work agreement; and have the same social security protection as other workers.
Also aims to ensure that fishing vessels are constructed and maintained so that fishers have decent living conditions on board.
Makena called upon the relevant stakeholders in the fisheries sector to understand Convention 188 and work for its wide ratification and proper implementation.
“The ITF works alongside the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to ensure the safety of fishers and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), which governs the sustainable management of fisheries,” she said.