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18th Apr 13Managed by Chatham House
Financed by DEFRA
Magufuli's Sh1.5bn fish bill
The bill for preserving the 300-ton haul of fish recovered from the foreigners charged with illegally fishing in Tanzanian waters in the Indian Ocean five months ago, now stands at over Sh1.5 billion and is set to go up higher.
However, Livestock Development and Fisheries minister John Magufuli yesterday defended the huge bill the taxpayer has to foot, stressing that the eventual benefits of the war against illegal fishing justifies the cost of pursuing the case to its logical conclusion.
"The public should not be worrying over the cost of storage of the impounded fish. We should be mostly concerned and happy about our victory against fishing pirates," Mr Magufuli said in Dar es Salaam, during an impromptu inspection of the fish, which is a crucial court exhibit.
The fish is being preserved at the Bahari Foods Limited in the Mwenge area of the city, and the minister said his inspection was meant to reassure the public that the loot has not been silently sold, as has been alleged in some quarters.
At a monthly preserving cost of $800 (Sh1.04 million) per ton, the Government has so far paid $1.184 million (Sh1.54 billion) for the 296.32 tons for the last five months. One fish weighs between 25kg and 300kg.
The fish was discovered when a combined team of South African, Kenyan and Tanzanian anti-trawling security forces mounted a successful raid to net pirates along the vast East African Indian Ocean coastline.
Some 34 suspects of different nationalities, including Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, Filipinos and Kenyans were arrested in Tanzanian waters on a trawler carrying the fish.
The suspects have been charged with engaging in illegal trawling, contravening international deep-sea fishing regulations and harvesting resources without a valid licence.
The case is being heard in the Kisutu Resident Magistrate's Court in Dar es Salaam.
During his tour yesterday, the deputy director of Criminal Intelligence, Assistant Commissioner of Police Peter Kivuyo, and several senior ministry officials accompanied Mr Magufuli.
There have been claims that authorities have secretly sold the fish after initial attempts to auction them failed. Later, the court also put a stop on sale after owners of the seized vessel petitioned against the move.
The minister said the whole consignment of the seized fish was intact and well preserved, awaiting the outcome of case. He, however, expressed concern over the slow pace of court proceedings, hinting that it may be hindering his ministry's resolve to net more criminals carrying out trawling on Tanzanian waters.
"The ministry's task was to seize the pirates and hand them over to the police for investigations and other legal procedures; today I am here to confirm the netted fish is intact and will remain as such until the court case is determined," Magufuli told reporters.
He went on: "We will respect the ruling of the court and if they say we distribute the fish for free, we will do just that; if we are to auction the haul, we shall do it when it is deemed appropriate."
The minister said cases such as this one were normally disposed quickly in other countries, noting with concern that the slow pace of cases in Tanzania is likely to hamper anti-piracy efforts. He, however, did not say who was to blame for the case delay in which bail for the suspects was granted only two weeks ago.
Saying it was his wish to see the case brought to and end the soonest, the minister noted that piracy cases in Mozambique took two weeks to conclude, South Africa four days while they took only seven days in Namibia.
"We have started well, but we need to improve in future after this learning phases," he said.
Mr Kivuyo said investigations had been concluded and that the prosecution was only waiting for the High Court to assign a judge to hear it.
Mr Magufuli said his ministry would continue to guard Tanzania's territorial waters and protect the country's exclusive economic sea zone to block pirates who have been cited recently on the radar.
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Issues/Monitoring, control and surveillance