A 20-day at-sea patrol undertaken by a coalition of Tanzanian law enforcement agencies, Fish-i Africa and Sea Shepherd crew working on board the Ocean Warrior, has resulted in the arrest of ten vessels, seven of which belong to a network of timber smugglers who are devasting mangrove forests in East Africa.
Marines instruct dhows to come alongside the Ocean Warrior for inspection. Photo Jax Oliver/Sea Shepherd.The inspection team uncover an illegal mangrove trade syndicate and several tons of mangrove products onboard local dhows. Photo Jax Oliver/Sea Shepherd.MATT investigators check paperwork onboard several dhows laden with illegally harvested mangrove products. Photo Jax Oliver/Sea Shepherd.Inspectors uncover cold stores full of unlicensed and unreported catch on local transport dhows. Photo Jax Oliver/Sea Shepherd.Unlicensed and unreported transport of marine catch is a big part of the problem with IUU fishing in territorial waters. Photo Jax Oliver/Sea Shepherd.Over 800 pieces of illegally harvested mangrove timber were uncovered on this single dhow. Photo Jax Oliver/Sea Shepherd.Sacks full of mangrove charcoal and lengths of mangrove timber were all uncovered during inspections alongside the Ocean Warrior. Photo Jax Oliver/Sea Shepherd.Six out of the 15 dhows inspected during one morning were arrested for the transport of marine and mangrove wildlife products. Photo Jax Oliver/Sea Shepherd.A fleet of dhows alongside the Ocean Warrior during inspections - laden with timber lengths and bags of illegal charcoal. Photo Jax Oliver/Sea Shepherd.Dhows alongside the Ocean Warrior, arrested for carrying illegally harvested mangrove products. Photo Jax Oliver/Sea Shepherd.The deck crew tether the dhows for arrest and transit to Dar es Salaam for prosecution. Photo Jax Oliver/Sea Shepherd.Dhow crew alert Sea Shepherd crew of water inundation while under tow just after nightfall. Photo Jax Oliver/Sea Shepherd.Sea Shepherd engineers form a prompt response with the emergency fire fighting pump bailing out the sinking dhow. Photo Jax Oliver/Sea Shepherd.Rescue efforts in vain: sinking dhow still laden with illegally harvested mangrove products sinks in the Dar es Salaam harbor. Photo Jax Oliver/Sea Shepherd.All crew from the sunken dhow safe and accounted for after emergency rescue operations. Photo Jax Oliver/Sea Shepherd.
Since the arrest of three fishing vessels for fisheries crimes and the levying of fines totaling 19 billion Tanzanian Shillings (6,865,160 EUR) against 19 other fishing vessels that fled Tanzania before submitting to mandatory post-fishing inspections, there has been little to no observed fishing activity in Tanzanian waters. Thus, the M/Y Ocean Warrior spent two weeks monitoring an infamous smuggling route between the island of Zanzibar and the mainland of Tanzania.
During the course of the patrols, seven dhows were arrested for smuggling illegal cargos of mangrove timber to be sold on the black market. Dhows are traditional cargo boats commonly found trading in the Indian Ocean.
Tanzanian law strictly protects mangrove forests as they are critical habitat for the many species of shellfish and fin fish that spawn and nurse there, and thereby crucial to supporting the livelihoods of local communities, especially artisanal fishermen.
Despite the best efforts of the Tanzanian government to enforce wide protections of mangrove swamps, some areas have been exploited to such an extent that natural regeneration is impossible without the intervention of law enforcement. Busting timber smuggling operations at sea is an important part of that human intervention and leads to intelligence that can be used by law enforcement to raid shore-based operations of the highly lucrative smuggling trade in mangrove timber.
All seven dhows were forfeited, their cargoes confiscated, and their captains arrested. The captain of one of the dhows deliberately sank his own vessel while under tow by the M/Y Ocean Warrior in order to create a climate of confusion with the intention of allowing the other towed dhows to escape. The crew of the dhow were rescued, and the captain charged on suspicion of obstructing a criminal investigation.
Tanzanian authorities also arrested a Pakistani captain of a cargo vessel on suspicion of violating Tanzanian immigration laws, and two dhows transporting a combined total of 71 people, including 12 children, in unseaworthy vessels without proper registration papers or life-saving appliances such as life jackets.
In total, ten vessels were arrested on the second joint patrol between Sea Shepherd and Tanzanian authorities, supported by Fish-i Africa.
“Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is ultimately a maritime security problem. The poachers of shark fins that were arrested on the first patrol of Operation Jodari exploit the same monitoring, control and surveillance vulnerabilities as other criminal networks: drug traffickers, human traffickers and in this case, timber traffickers. Operation Jodari is having a huge effect in that the provision of a civilian offshore patrol vessel is bringing illegal fishing vessels to justice – and is shutting down smuggling routes used to perpetrate other environmental crimes.”
Captain Peter Hammarstedt, Director of Campaigns for Sea Shepherd Global.