Govt revokes fishing licences for 69 boats By Kagashe Beatus THE CITIZEN The Government yesterday cancelled fishing licences for all vessels operating in Tanzania's deep seawaters and directed that they apply afresh for new licences. Announcing the measures aimed at protecting the country's fisheries resources from plunder, Livestock Development and Fisheries minister John Magufuli also said the Tanzania People�s Defence Forces (TPDF) would patrol the Exclusive Economic Fishing Zone (EEZ). The ministry and the navy will launch a joint operation to net all the illegal vessels and use force if necessary to rein in illegal fish harvesting and trawling, Mr Magufuli said at a press conference in Dar es Salaam. TPDF's Brigadier-General S. Omary, who was present at the news conference, urged all stake holders to work together so that the mission could be accomplished. Mr Magufuli said the Government has decided to cancel licences held by 69 registered foreign fishing vessels operating in the Indian Ocean as part of efforts to control unregulated fishing in Tanzanian waters and increase revenue in the form of licence fees. Most of the vessels are from Europe, Japan and far-east countries. It is possible we slept in the past, but now we are alert and must not continue to be the grandmother's farm where all and sundry can come and harvest, said Mr Magufuli. He said the operation would also involve the Zanzibar government, and it would be decided on how best to use the military to fight illegal trawlers and those who abused their fishing licences. Zanzibar's Agriculture, Fishing and Environment minister Burhan Ali Sadat attended the press conference. The announcement is expected to ease mounting pressure on the Government to act decisively against illegal fishing that was reportedly costing the country some Sh100 billion in lost revenue annually. The Opposition camp in Parliament has for the last two years accused the Government of failing to tackle grand corruption in the fishing industry. The leader of the official opposition, Mr Hamad Rashid Mohamed, last month told Parliament that official data showed that the Government charging $18,000 (Sh22.5 million) per year for the licences in comparison to war-torn Somali that was charging $100,000 (Sh125 million) per year. Mr Mohamed also said the Government was not keeping the proper list of vessels as it said 140 ships were operating so far in the country while in 2004 there were actually more than 193 vessels. This, however, differed sharply from the 69 vessels that Mr Magufuli talked about yesterday. A document by the development partners group (DPG) released last year also indicted that by 2005, there were 148 foreign vessels from 12 countries fishing in the EEZ zone alone. Japan and Spain had the largest fleets at 43 vessels each, France with 30, Seychelles, 12, Republic of Korea with 10 while the others had between one and two vessels. The Fovernment was also petitioned to raise royalty paid for the catches to at lest 10 percent of the total sales, to tap into the lost tonnage as most ships allegedly under-declared their capacities by up to 500 tonnes. Mr Magufuli, who is known for his no nonsense approach to enforcing regulations, said South African Development Community (SADC) member countries along the Indian coast had joined hands to fight illegal fishing and get back the worth of the resource in respective countries. Most of these countries are currently involved in negotiations with the European Union that wanted them to sign binding fishing contracts in exchange for development and environmental conservation aid and monitoring of the high seas. The negotiations have not been successful in many of them including Tanzanian that suspended the renewing of the old contracts until new regulations on the industry are drawn. Mr Magufuli addressed the media soon after returning from Namibia where the countries signed the joint agreement on July 4. He is scheduled to reveal more of the steps the government would be undertaking to enhance the fishreiss sector that was listed by Finance Minister Mustafa Mkulo as a priority area for government revenue collection. Currently the situation is very bad in the country, ships are coming up to the territorial and reserved areas where small fishing is done without fearing any reprisals. They don't even buy oil in this country, Mr Magufuli. He said every year SADC countries lost $1 billion (Sh1.3 trillion) due to illegal and unregulated fishing. In Namibia, he noted, the fishing industry contributes 23 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP), coming only second after the mining sector. In Tanzania, however, the contribution was still very low due to the corruption and outdated licencing regulations, among other factors. Mr Magufuli said his ministry would not tolerate corruption and put on notice officials who will be found colluding with foreign vessels to cheat, especially in the Indian Ocean. Up to 98 per cent of the fishing revenues in the country comes from Lake Victoria while the Indian Ocean contributes only one per cent, he added. He said the enactment of the Fishing Act 2007 that made the sector a shared resource with Zanzibar would see the establishment of the deep sea authority that that will execute the power to fight illegal fishing in the country. Neither the Government nor the citizens are benefiting from fishing industry in the country its better we leave these fishes in water, said Mr Magufuli. He cautioned if the situation did not change, there would come a time when Tanzanian would neither see nor be able to buy fish, adding, It's better they stop fishing and we remain with our fish. He said the Government is well prepared to enforce the new rules. Mr Magufuli cautioned officers working in cahoots with foreign fishing boats to deny the country much needed revenue to stop the habit immediately. We have jailed a CCM ward chairman in Musoma for two years and a person from a neighbouring country for eight years for illegal fishing we are not afraid of any one, he added. He said many ships were conducting their activities illegally while some firms registered one ship and use the licence for several vessels.