Tuna fish storage charges pile up: as court dilly-dallies with fish sale permit SAYUNI KIMARO THIS DAY Dar es salaam THE government of Tanzania is set to pay a hefty price for keeping 298 tonnes of Tuna fish, seized from MV Tawariq1, at a privately owned cold storage facility in Dar es salaam, it has been learnt. Cold storage industry sources place the daily cold storage charges at about $80 per tonne, which means the total charge the government may have to pay up to this day is approximately $596,000, equivalent to 786,720,000/-. Police in Tanzania have asked the Kisutu Resident Magistrates Court in Dar es Salaam to issue a permit for the disposal of 298 tonnes of Tuna fish confiscated from Tawariq 1, a foreign fishing vessel which was allegedly found fishing illegally in the countrys Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), arguing that it was better to keep money instead of fish. The police argument also makes business sense since it would save the government a huge sum of money by disposing of the fish, according to THISDAY findings. Speaking in Dar es Salaam recently, Inspector General of Police (IGP) Said Mwema, said while investigations to establish the owner of the vessel were in progress, police had applied to the court for a permit to have the exhibit disposed of as soon as possible. Qualifying the IGPs remarks in a telephone interview with THISDAY later, Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI) Robert Manumba, said the police worry was that since the fish in question was a perishable product, there was a chance that the fish could go bad. We need to dispose of the fish while it is still fresh, Manumba said. When asked whether to sell the fish would not cause problems in the future should the vessel owner win the case brought against him, the DCI remarked: The idea is to keep the money realized from the sale until a final verdict on the case is issued, after which the money would then be handed over to the party that wins the case. However, until we went to press yesterday, there had not been any word on the issuance of the fish sale permit being given by the Kisutu court. Efforts to get audience with the Ministry of Livestock Development and Fisheries for clarification of issues related to this permit ended in vain in the course of the entire past week. Minister John Magufuli never answered our calls. Delivery of an SMS with one of our questions was confirmed, but there was no reply. From a business perspective, the fish storage is an increasing business liability for the government. The Dar es Salaam-based Bahari Foods Limited, the cold storage owner where the government stored the confiscated fish 25 days ago, are in talks with the government over storage charges for the 298 metric tonnes of Tuna fish from the Oman registered ship, MV Tawariq1. In an exclusive interview with THISDAY at his office, Bahari Foods General Manager Mr Ramesh Chauchan, stated that the company wrote a negotiation proposal over the charges that the government should pay them, but the government has not responded yet. He did not disclose the charges he has proposed to the government, and THISDAY has not established why the ministry concerned does not want to talk about this. According to Chauchan, the refrigeration costs are high because they put ice bags in the giant fridge where the Tuna is kept every 24 hours. He urged the concerned authorities to make a quick decision since electrical costs might make the storing of the Tuna a costly affair. The government should speed up the process as TANESCO charges might go high. As I am speaking now we are negotiating terms with the government concerning the storage costs and I dont know how long it will take for them to respond, Chauchan said. However, Chauchan did not want to mention the storage costs his company is charging, saying that it depended on the outcome of the negotiations. The vessel, christened MV Tawariq1, was found fishing 100 miles off the Indian Ocean shoreline. It was initially thought to have 70 tonnes of tuna fish on board, but when towed to the port of Dar es Salaam and a proper search conducted, it was discovered that it was loaded with 298 tonnes of the high-priced delicacy. The tuna haul is now serving as exhibit in a case against the trawler crew, currently pending at the Kisutu court. The World Bank estimates that Tanzania loses revenue of over $200m (240bn/-) annually to foreign trawlers catching tuna and other species of fish within its EEZ. An estimated 70 trawlers, mainly from Asia and Europe, illegally catch hundreds of tonnes of tuna annually. The Tuna fishing season is between June and July when the fish migrate between the waters of Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique. The estimated street value of tuna is between $3-5 per kilogramme.