Chinese trawlers detained after entering SA waters without permission

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The Sarah Baartman patrol vessel. PHOTO: FLEETMON

Six Chinese fishing trawlers were detained and issued with fines after they entered South African waters without the required permission.

Zolile Nqayi from the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries said the trawlers were detected entering the South African Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) off the Northern Cape coast on April 3, after being ordered out of Namibian waters by the Namibian authorities.

The fishery patrol vessel, the Sarah Baartman, later intercepted the vessels off the Western Cape coast and ordered them to the outer anchorage of the Port of Cape Town.

Following the interception of the vessels, on April 7 the Chinese Embassy submitted a Diplomatic Note requesting permission for the vessels to shelter in Cape Town from adverse weather conditions. A team from the integrated Operation Phakisa Intitiative Five then boarded the vessels and inspected them.

“No fish were found aboard and all fishing gear was stored as per the Marine Living Resources Act.

“All the vessels were subsequently fined for entering South African waters without permission,” said Nqayi.

Once the fines had been paid, the six trawlers were released and monitored as they transited South African waters.

Whilst off Port Elizabeth the vessels requested permission to shelter in Algoa Bay from adverse weather conditions. The request was approved by the South African Maritime Safety Authority.

After departing Algoa Bay, the vessels sailed up the coast and left South African waters late on April 19 and early on the morning of April 20. There was no evidence of illegal activity whilst in South African waters.

During the Covid-19 lockdown period, integrated teams have been deployed under Operation Phakisa along the coast to support the national effort to protect marine resources on the coastline and at sea.

The teams, which includes enforcement officials, are checking for infringements related to the Marine Living Resources Act, the Road Traffic Act, non-compliance with Covid-19 Disaster Management regulations and other criminal activity.

Zita Goldswain