In a bid to stop illegal fishing, the Tanzanian government is planning to amend laws governing the fisheries sector which will attract stiffer penalties for offenders.
Speaking to reporters, the Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Dr Charles Tizeba said the current laws have loopholes which hamper effective prosecution.
He said ministry officials were preparing amendments to change offences to economic sabotage. The new amendments were expected to be tabled in Parliament’s next sitting in February under a certificate of urgency.
“We have lost almost all cases of illegal fishing by using dynamite because of the definition of explosives and proof required… this is why we need to change the law,” said Dr Tizeba.
“Even if these people are caught and charged, the penalty is either a six-months prison sentence or a fine of only TSh 200,000. This paltry fine is akin to a government levy. Imposing such a fine on people who have illegally caught fish worth tens of millions of shillings is a joke.”
Dr Tizeba cited a recent incident where 1.5 tonnes of fish killed with explosives were recently seized in Dar es Salaam with suspects managing to escape arrest.
“If someone is aware that if they are arrested and charged they could be jailed for 15 years they will think twice before engaging in illegal fishing. Public sensitisation is also needed on the impact of illegal fishing.”
Illegal fishing has also been condemned by the international conservation organisation; World Wildlife Fund. Its marine coordinator Dr Mathias Igulu said it was harmful to biodiversity.
He said the use of outlawed fishing nets and poison along with dynamites destroy fish stocks and their habitats.
“Everyone has the responsibility to curb illegal fishing and this can be done by discouraging the demand side. Hotels, factories and individuals should stop buying fish suspected to have been killed with dynamite or poison,” Dr Igulu said.