Officials in the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources on Tuesday said they are on high alert and are closely monitoring Namibian territorial waters for possible illegal fishing activity.
This follows after their South African counterparts detected nine illegal Chinese fishing trawler vessels in their waters last week.
The nine fishing trawlers were spotted around Durban‚ Port Saint John’s and Cape Recife last Thursday and their activities seemed suspicious to such an extent that South Africa dispatched its patrol vessel, Victoria Mxenge, to search for the trawlers.
After being spotted the vessels agreed to be escorted to Cape Town harbour by a coastal protection vessel on Saturday. However, only one was successfully escorted to the harbour, whilst the others dispersed in different directions.
The impounded vessel is expected to be searched for evidence of illegal fishing.
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister of South Africa Senzeni Zokwana was quoted yesterday in the South African press, saying an investigation into the suspected illegal fishing vessel, which is being held at Cape Town harbour, is ongoing.
South Africa shortly afterwards requested Namibia and Mozambique to be on high alert, as the other eight vessels may be involved in illegal fishing in Namibian and Mozambican territorial waters.
The public relations officer in the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, De Wet Siluka, confirmed to New Era that they have been notified about the suspicious fishing vessels.
“However, no official communication about the issue has taken place between South Africa and Namibia, but we are on high alert and are closely monitoring our territorial waters,” he said.Siluke said the country’s surveillance and monitoring system is capable of detecting any illegal fishing activity: “Besides that, fishing activities are also being monitored by airborne patrols, as well as with the assistance of the Namibian navy.”
Shortly after Independence Namibia had to put in place stringent measures to protect its marine resources, including the seizure of illegal distant-water fleets involved in the plunder of fish resources, a practice that has been going on with impunity for decades.
Scientists noted then that the preventative actions taken by government came just in time as Namibia’s valuable hake stocks, among other species, had been fished down to levels that would have been depleted beyond recovery had Namibia not acted.