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Fish pirates in Namibian waters face severe punishment

Fish pirates in Namibian waters face severe punishment

Niël Terblanché
DIRECT action was finally taken against the plundering of Namibia’s fish resources by large foreign owned industrial factory trawlers that have been sneaking into the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone from Angola during a joint operation between the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resource (MFMR) and Sea Shepherd.

The joint operation, dubbed operation Vanguard, also created an opportunity for Namibian maritime law enforcement officials from the Namibian Police and the fisheries ministry to receive vital and long overdue training on how to conduct maritime policing activities from the international, non-profit marine conservation organization that engages in direct action campaigns in oceans around the planet to defend wildlife, and conserve and protect the world’s oceans from illegal exploitation and environmental destruction.

The Inspector General of the Namibia Police, Lieutenant General Sebastian Ndeitunga said the training received by officers from Nampol was long overdue and would go a long way to ensure that maritime law and the Namibian Fisheries Act would be enforced efficiently.

“The training was long overdue because the plundering of Namibian fish resources is unacceptable. The Namibian Police has a vessel to patrol Namibian waters and are often assisted by the Namibian Navy in the execution of their tasks. The navy also conduct similar operations independently,” Gneral Ndeitunga said.

The Minister Of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Bernardt Esau, said that the Namibian government has taken certain conservation measures to protect the fisheries sector which is critical to the national economy and the ecosystem health of Namibia’s marine environment, these measures must also include at-sea patrols.

“With the Operation Vanguard concluded, criminal operators plundering Namibian waters off the Skeleton Coast have received a clear message that the Namibian Government is vigilant in defending its fisheries.”

According to a statement issued by the MFMR, compliance officials and Sea Shepherd volunteers, onboard the Ocean Warrior, have jointly carried out successful surveillance activities in Namibia`s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) from April 26th through June 15th, 2019, effectively causing illegal factory trawlers to abandon the Skeleton Coast.

In the past illegal incursions by large factory vessels have been exacerbated by heavy fog and shipwrecks in the area thereby making detection difficult. To make matters worse the illegal catches were then trans-shipped at sea to large refrigerated cargo vessels, also known as reefers, waiting to load the illegally caught fish just outside of Namibian EEZ.

“Refrigerated cargo vessels are a major contributor to IUU fishing as legal catches can easily be mixed with illegal catch, thereby making it impossible to verify the origin of catches. That is why the Namibian Marine Resources Act bans transhipment out at sea and only allows it to happen in port or in the presence of law enforcement officers.”

The main objective of the joint operation was to force illegal and foreign industrial factory trawlers out of the Namibian EEZ suspected to have targeted horse mackerel stocks in their plundering operations.

“On April 26th the Ocean Warrior intercepted an illegal fishing vessel moving at trawling speed, 20 nautical miles south of the border between Angola and Namibia. On sighting the Ocean Warrior the illegal fishing vessel immediately changed course to escape apprehension. The Sea Shepherd vessel came within 300 metres of the illegal fishing vessel, engaging in a close quarter situation in its efforts to slow the larger vessel down. The unidentified fishing vessel had no discernible markings, and unfortunately the illegal fishing vessel could not be boarded due to unfavourable weather conditions at the time.”

Illegal fishing has recently increased as illegal fishing vessels have set up bases of operations in other countries with the intent of poaching in the northern waters of Namibia. According to the MFMR statement the first confrontation and visibility of a patrolling presence off the Skeleton Coast by this joint operation caused a deterrence to fish pirates as no further incursions have occurred since the intercept, ensuring that the joint patrols have the intended deterrent effect that will allow horse mackerel stocks in the north of Namibia to recover from the fishing pressure of criminal operators.

The MFMR said it values the partnership in pursuance of rooting out IUU fishing in its EEZ and will continue to make use of such generosity of Sea Shepherd.

“We shall fight the scourge of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing activities in Namibia’s EEZ at all times,” Esau said.
The minister said poachers will be dealt with in terms of the law and punishment will be severe.

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