A case of “modern day slavery” has made the headlines this week when ten foreign vessels were found to be fishing illegally off the coast of South Africa.
The fisheries patrol vessel Victoria Mxenge escorted three of the vessels from offshore Camps Bay to Cape Town harbour and the vessels were seized. The crew onboard, who were mainly Taiwanese and Indonesian, were found to be working in horrific conditions and many had been working for up to five years without pay.
Bernard Ledemann of fisheries’ law enforcement said, “It was basically modern-day slavery. If we had not intervened this treatment would have gone on unnoticed. At least we have got the vessels out of commission.”
According to SAMSA the vessels were not fit to sail. On investigation another seven vessels belonging to the same owner were found docked in Cape Town harbour.
The fisheries department is following up with the owners and the vessels are to be forfeited to the department.
Local fishermen are now turning to the law in an attempt to force the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) to review and set aside the linefish rights allocation process.
The SA Commercial Linefish Association has given chairman Wally Croome the mandate to apply to the courts to have the decisions made by DAFF re-examined. Croome says, “The only way forward is to go for a court interdict and challenge this process.”
DAFF maintains that the allocation process has been fair and legal, but still encourages fishermen to submit their appeals.
Many a struggle ahead as the fishing rights allocation process goes on …… and on.