Japan has asked the Tanzania Government to address the increasing problem of piracy off the coast of Somalia as a way of ensuring safety of Japanese vessels fishing in the country’s territorial waters.
Speaking in Dar es Salaam on January 11, 2010 after signing the fishing agreement between Japan Tuna Co-operative Association and Deep Sea Fishing Authority of Tanzania, the Japanese Ambassador to Tanzania, Hiroshi Nakagawa called for concerted efforts to find an effective solution to the menace.
“We had to give up fishing in the northern part of the Indian Ocean since last year. And the number of our boats fishing in Tanzania’s territorial waters is decreasing sharply,” said Nakagawa.
Piracy off the Somali coast has threatened international shipping since the beginning of Somalia’s civil war in the early 1990s. Since 2005, pirates have threatened and seized many ships.
Many international organizations, including the International Maritime Organization and the World Food Programme, have expressed concern over the rise in acts of piracy.
Under the agreement, 30 Japanese vessels will pay US$ 35 000 license fees to fish in Tanzania’s territorial waters for a year.
The Minister for Livestock Development and Fisheries, Dr John Magufuli commended Japan for opening the way which should be followed by foreign fishing vessels fishing in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) area.
He said the event was taking place at a time when most foreign vessels were illegally harvesting the nation’s fishery resources n the country’s EEZ.
“Indeed Japan has shown the world how it was committed to complying with fisheries management measures as per Tanzania Legislation, including Deep Sea Fishing Authority Act No. 6 of 2007 and its regulations of 2009, “ said Dr Magufuli.
According to Dr Magufuli, the agreement was a win-win situation whereby, Tanzania would benefit from license fees, and at the same time getting reliable fishing data and creating jobs while Japan would benefit from the catches.
He further said that each of the Japanese vessels will three Tanzanian observers and would be fixed with Global Positioning System (GPS) monitored from inland to help detect pirate vessels.
However, the minister hinted that his ministry in collaboration with South African Development Community (SADC) would frequently conduct joint patrols in all important major and minor waters and would not rest or lay down tools until illegal fishing was wiped out.
“I hope the Japanese government will support us to fight this war,” he said.
A SADC joint patrol led by South Africa seized a pirate vessel on March 10, last year fishing illegally in the Tanzania’s EEZ with 30 foreign crews and 299 tonnes of fish worth TShs 2billion on board. The suspect are currently being charged in court.
Tanzania benefits little from its marine resources which contribute only 1.6% to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
On his part, Masahiro Ishikawa, Japan Tuna Fisheries Corporation President said: “If managed effectively, marine resources can be used continuously.”
He said he was optimistic that the two governments will take an effective measure as soon as possible to stop destruction of tuna resources.
Moreover, Ishikawa said proposals have been made to nominate Atlantic fin tuna and other six species of shark to be on the list of endangered species during the meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to be held in Doha, Qatar in March this year.
He asked the Tanzania government to send representative to the meeting to support the interests of both Japan and Tanzania in the fishing sector.
The ocean bordering the East coast of Africa is one of the last areas where fishing activities are largely unregulated. Even though Tanzania, like its neighbours to the north and south have declared a 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ: Law of the Sea), it lacks the institutional and financial capability to exercise their jurisdiction.
While fish species living in narrow coastal strip are harvested, the potentially valuable offshore species are left to foreign fishing fleets that rarely pay reasonable fees for exploitation of the fishery.
Source: The Guardian, 12 January 2010.