A 20-day at-sea patrol undertaken by a coalition of Tanzanian law enforcement agencies, Fish-i Africa and Sea Shepherd crew working on board the Ocean Warrior resulted in the arrest of two local fishing vessels, the bust of a major mangrove smuggling operation and a chase across the Indian Ocean with the Ocean Warrior in hot pursuit of a fugitive poaching vessel.
Police raid strikes at the heart of the mangrove smuggling operation
On the second patrol of Operation Jodari seven dhows belonging to a network of timber smugglers who are devastating mangrove forests in East Africa were arrested. Dhows are traditional cargo boats commonly found trading in the Indian Ocean.
As a result of intelligence provided to the Tanzanian Multi-Agency Task Team (MATT) by an informant on one of the arrested dhows, an onshore police raid conducted by Forestry law enforcement resulted in the arrest of smugglers at the source of the timber trafficking operation and the seizure of over 1,800 bags of charcoal and large amounts of mangrove timber waiting to be smuggled.
Tanzanian law strictly protects mangrove forests as they are critical habit for the many species of shellfish and fin fish that spawn and nurse there, and thereby crucial to supporting the livelihoods local communities, especially artisanal fishermen.
Following the arrest of the seven dhows and the busting of onshore gangs, all timber smuggling operations have ceased.
Chasing down a notorious toothfish poacher
When Mozambique alerted the Fish-i Africa Task Force that a fishing vessel in their detention had escaped, all eight Fish-i Africa Member Countries were alerted, and the Ocean Warrior was tasked to stand-by on the southern border of Tanzanian waters in the hopes of intercepting the fugitive.
The fugitive ship was the F/V STS-50, a known Patagonian and Antarctic toothfish poacher, that had been detained in the Republic of Mozambique for presenting authorities with forged certificates of registration, fraudulently claiming to be flagged to the Republic of Togo. Inspectors discovered 600 gillnets on board, fishing gear prohibited by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Living Marine Resources (CCAMLR).
Both black-listed by CCAMLR in 2016 and subject to an INTERPOL Purple Notice for illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, the F/V STS-50 is better known by its previous names ‘Ayda’, ‘Sea Breez 1’ and ‘Andrey Dolgov’.
When the F/V STS-50 headed north of Madagascar into the waters of the Seychelles, avoiding Tanzanian waters, the Tanzanian government gave the Tanzanian Navy stationed on board the Ocean Warrior permission to pursue the vessel outside its waters. The F/V STS-50 was intercepted on March 24th by the Ocean Warrior in the Seychelles, and although it was followed for several days, unfortunately the Tanzanian Navy did not have the authority to board and inspect the fugitive vessel. However, photos and other evidence gathered during the chase -- including the course and speed of the F/V STS-50 – were passed on to Indonesian authorities, adding to the intelligence that allowed the Indonesian Navy to successfully intercept and arrest the vessel on the 6th of April.
The Indonesian Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, the Honorable Susi Pudjiastuti, has stated the vessel will either be seized and utilized for the public good – or be destroyed.
Deterrence is the ultimate enforcement
Since the arrest of three fishing vessels for fisheries crimes, and the levying of fines totaling 19 billion Tanzanian Shillings (6,865,160 EUR) against 19 other fishing vessels that absconded for Tanzania before submitting to mandatory post-fishing inspections, there has been little to no observed fishing activity in Tanzanian waters.
Every day that the Ocean Warrior remains in Tanzanian waters deters shark-finning operators from returning to Tanzanian waters, giving fish and shark populations a respite. Tanzanian law enforcements are also able to continue training and building capacity and capability in the fight against IUU fishing.