Italian tycoon in trouble as KWS seize ship engaging in illegal fishing
By Collins Osanya
Kenya wildlife service officials have seized a trawler in Kipini area of Tanadelta sub-county in Tanariver county which was allegedly doing illegal fishing in the shallow waters of the Indian ocean.
The officials together with community members and Tanariver county government officials managed to arrest Salim Kolombo Tawfiq the the commanding officer of the fishing vessel 5ZZB MV Roberto belonging to an Italian tycoon.
Police reports seen by journalists indicated that the the suspect revealed that the ship was using prohibited fishing gear that did not contain a mandatory turtle excluder device.
Further, the report said the ship was found in possession of one endangered species called glaucostegus halavi (gutar fish).
The vessel according to the police report was also allegedly found bottom trawling in shallow waters of a depth of less than 15 meters in contravention to the fisheries management and development act (35 of 2016)
The suspect was handed over to Kipini police station and was to be arraigned in Garsen court on Tuesday but did not take a plea.
Tanadelta Sub-county commander when contacted for comment told journalists that he would call back later but never picked calls again and was not in his office despite efforts to reach him.
Journalists went to the Garsen law courts but officials said the case had not been registered in their registry.
Officials said until the Director of public prosecution brought the case is when it will be registered .
Unconfirmed reports indicated that there were plans to defer the case to Mombasa where the suspects would take a plea from there.
Journalists managed to see some of the exhibits found in the vessel which included young sharks of about two weeks old, a young guitar fish which is one of the endangered species and part of the fishing net which when measured was less than 6 centimeters.
In Kipini there were protests from the locals who claimed they have been opposing the trawler fishing for a long time in vain.
The community said they were happy that MV Roberto had been nabbed and called on the government to completely ban trawling in Kipini as it was harmful.
Islam Abdalla a resident of Kipini who has been fishing since 1970s said trawlers started in 1974 and they destroyed fishing nets, killing young fish in the ocean.
He said they complained in 1984 and went for a meeting but strange enough they established that the fisheries department do not sign any agreements with the trawlers.
Abdalla said trawlers destroy young fish, corals, which has contributed to a massive reduction of fish stock in the ocean.
‘’As residents of Kipini, we are against trawlers, during one of the meetings a foreigner asked the authorities why they were allowing trawlers which are like poachers in his country,’’ he said.
He said the Beach management Units networks formed along the coastal line are compromised by those who own trawlers and pay very little money without doing any CSR.
Abdalla said Kipini was a fish breeding ground but due to the fishing activities going on there are several species that have begun to disappear.
Said Awadh Ali said ring net fishing is illegal but wondered why they were given licenses to do fishing in the area.
He said during the arrest they found out that the vessel the crew had no licenses adding that their document showed they were 18 but inside they were only 16 all without licenses.
Ali said the vessel had no observer from the fisheries department and were fishing in shallow waters which are fish breeding grounds.
“They were fishing in shallow waters and as per the law they need to do fishing five nautical miles from the shores,” he said.
He said the community does not benefit from the trawlers and whenever locals are caught fishing young fish they are harassed and arrest5ed.
Ali said in the area there are about five trawlers that do fishing which contributes to massive destruction of the fish species including the endangered turtle.
Fatuma Omar a fishmonger and dealer said the Ocean is being utilized by other people because the locals are not able to get fish due to the destruction.
She said the trawlers are fishing in shallow waters and destroy very young fish making it difficult for the local fishermen to get fish.
“They destroy turtles, young sharks, and much other small fish which are supposed to be allowed to grown,’’ she said.
Omar said they do not recognize the BMU because it is disputed and they do not recognize the leadership so far.
Azad Idris a resident said the trawler business was harmful to the environment and it has caused negative effects to the community in Kipini.
“Many times we walk along the ocean and we see dead fish species which is as a result of the trawling business,’’ she said.
Others who spoke also called on the government to ban all trawlers so as to ensure the environment is protected and fish is allowed to breed.
Interestingly they said foreigners are the ones doing trawling business at the expense of locals who use small vessels.