After a bizarre chase, the South African authorities have arrested a Chinese fishing vessel and escorted it to Cape Town, where fines for a range of infringements have been imposed.
A fleet of nine vessels was identified a few days ago off eastern South Africa and thought to be fishing illegally there. According to a statement by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), patrol vessel Victoria Mxenge was dispatched to intercept the fleet, which agreed to be escorted to a point off Port of Saldana for inspection.
‘However, during the night these vessels started dispersing in different directions. This made it harder for our vessel to give chase. Victoria Mxenge kept trail of one of the vessels and captured and boarded it, escorting it to the port of Cape Town,’ a DAFF spokesman said.
Minister of Defence Nosiviwe Mapisa Nqakula instructed the South African Navy to assist with the chase and the Western Cape Police are also assisting with the operation.
Identified as the Lu Huang Yuan Yu 186, there are numerous conflicting rumours of what the fleet the arrested vessel belonged to was doing. But the vessel is reported to be practically brand-new and the nine are on their way to western Africa to fish in Congolese waters. The South African authorities have established that the nine belong to the same company, and no fishing equipment or fish were found during the inspection carried out on board Lu Huang Yuan Yu 186 in Cape Town.
The Chinese fishing vessel is detained in Cape Town and the charges include the inhumane keeping of dogs on board, as well as infringements in turning off navigation lights when the fleet scattered, entering the South African EEZ without a valid permit, failing to comply with lawful instructions given by a fishery control officer and failing to facilitating the safe boarding, entry and inspection of the fishing vessel.
According to DAFF, authorities in Namibia and Mozambique have also been alerted to the presence of the fleet of nine Chinese fishing vessels, and efforts are being made to get them all red flagged with the Regional Fisheries Management Organisations.