Livestock and Fisheries minister Luhaga Mpina said here yesterday that 120m/- in fines has been collected from fishermen and traders caught with unauthorised fishing tools and those found transporting fish and fish products outside the country illegally.
This comes hardly a week after the minister ordered the carrying out of an intensive audit into revenue collected in international-class fish markets located in the Lake Victoria zone following reports of massive tax avoidance that denies the government billions of shillings in levies and taxes.
During his tour of Galinzila and Kakukuru islands yesterday, Mpina said that the government’s war on illegal fishing had was not meant to “hurt” law-abiding businesspeople but targeted those fond of breaking the law and pillaging the country’s natural resources for selfish ends.
He also unveiled a team of experts and security organs tasked with stamping out illegal fishing in the zone especially in big towns including Mwanza, Bukoba and Musoma as well as scores of islands.
“The team is expected to work tirelessly to ensure that illegal fishing becomes a thing of the past in this Zone. I am confident that if this and other teams with the same mandate in the country embark on regular patrols in the ocean, dams, rivers and lakes, success is certain,” he said.
“I am meanwhile aware that there are people fond of inciting fishermen to down tools after the government has started taking measures to fight illegal fishing in earnest. My advice is that they should not dare do such a thing as the government goes about doing what it is supposed to do for the good of our country and nation.”
The minister noted that, according to the Tanzania Fisheries Research Institute (TAFIRI) report of 2017, some 96.6 per cent of the fish in Lake Victoria are still immature and only the 3.4 per cent or so have matured and are ready for harvesting.
But fishermen still comb the lake using all manner of banned fishing gear, including nets that collect virtually everything as well poison and explosive. This endangers the lives of both fish and unsuspecting people consuming the fish.
“These figures are staggering. We need to strengthen efforts to ensure that these immature fish in the lake are well protected for the benefit of this and future generations,” said the minister.
While at Kakukuru, the minister torched a total of 44,211 fishing tools worth 2bn/- including fishing nets and boats.
Ukerewe District Commissioner Estomih Chang’a said that authorities in the area would work closely with the team to ensure that no one continues with illegal fishing, as Ukerewe District Executive Director Frank Bahati reported that the council had suspended three officials proved to have been colluding with traders in illegal fishing.
Late last year, Fisheries and Livestock deputy minister Abdallah Ulega said Tanzania imports at least 2,000 tonnes of mackerel fish from China every month “largely owing to a sharp decline in fish catches in the country”.
He was speaking at Kilindoni village in Mafia district at the climax of World Fishing Day celebrations organised by the World Wildlife Fund.
The deputy minister said statistics showed that fish catches in the country had declined to at least 360,000 tonnes in 2016 compared to 390,000 tonnes in 2012, while the number of licensed fishermen continued to rise to over 66,000 from 56,000 during the period.
He said in order to avert the situation and save the country from running out of fish, the government had deployed 2,000 sea patrols by soldiers to be stationed on Mafia Island “to control illegal fishing and stop pirates from operating in the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone”.
He added that the government was reviewing the country’s legislation on fishing to enable Tanzanians to benefit more from the marine resources.