12 July 2005

Minister welcomes home the Sarah Baartman: first-ever joint SADC fisheries patrol a great success

"Fish species don't respect man-made fishing boundaries. Poachers and illegal fishers don't respect them either. For too long this has placed our enforcement authorities in Southern Africa at a major disadvantage."

These were the words of Marthinus van Schalkwyk, the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, speaking at a ceremony in Durban on Monday to welcome home the crew of the Sarah Baartman, South Africa's flagship off-shore environmental protection vessel.

"When we launched the Sarah Baartman in January this year," said the Minister, "We said that like her heroic namesake, this vessel would be both an inspiration and an asset not only to South Africa but to the whole region. Today we prove the truth of that point – the Sarah Baartman this morning returned to South Africa after having spent a month away from her home port of Cape Town, during which time she has steamed more than 5000 nautical miles.

That is approximately 9000 kilometres, or the distance from Johannesburg to Hong Kong. It has been an historic voyage. For the first time three SADC countries are cooperating and working together to conduct cost-effective and efficient fisheries surveillance at sea. On board the Sarah Baartman have been inspectors from not only South Africa but from Tanzania and Mozambique as well.

Together with aerial surveillance they have patrolled the waters of the East Coast of Southern Africa at precisely the same time as a Namibian surveillance vessel has been at sea in Angolan and Namibian waters, with inspectors from not only Namibia and Angola but also South Africa on board. This has been the most comprehensive civilian surveillance operation ever undertaken at sea around our coasts."

Speaking about the successes of the Sarah Baartman's mission the Minister said: "The results have shown that surveillance activities are critical to ensure fishing vessel compliance with our laws.

In total, 50 separate fishing vessels were observed, of which 47 were boarded by our inspectors who checked their fishing gear, catches, log books, licenses and permits. 3 fines were issued and one vessel was ordered to return to port as its safety certificate had expired.

As important, was the objective to test the command and control systems in the countries involved. Certain flaws in the systems have been found and will, with the aid of the SADC-EU Monitoring, Compliance and Surveillance (MCS) Programme, be addressed, raising the standard of fisheries surveillance throughout the region."

Minister Van Schalkwyk also used the opportunity to speak about other upcoming MCS initiatives between the SADC countries: " South Africa , together with other SADC states, is in the process of adding another building block to the satellite based vessel monitoring system (VMS).

The VMS tracks South African fishing vessels and is used by other SADC states to track their fishing vessels too. Instead of working on an entirely national basis, as has been the case, within the next few months VMS information will be exchanged in real-time with other SADC countries so that the coastal state will be able to see on their VMS display when vessels of other SADC states enter their waters – this will also be funded by the EU.

This is of major importance as it will be the first time in our history that the region will be able to have such complete fisheries information – which in turn will make monitoring, compliance and surveillance that much more effective."

Thanking the organisations and individuals involved in the successful voyage the Minister said: " South Africa takes fishing and the protection of our fish stocks very seriously. We are also serious about the commitments made by this country when we signed the SADC Protocol on Fisheries.

We are therefore delighted to see that our neighbouring states also share our views on this and have, by supporting this mission, shown that in a truly tangible way. I would like to thank the staff of all the fisheries authorities which have been involved in the voyage for making it such a success.

I would also like to thank the European Union which, through the SADC–EU MCS Programme has coordinated and funded the mission. Most of all I would like to thank the captain, crew and inspectors of the Sarah Baartman for their efforts at sea which have culminated in the successful completion of the voyage."

Concluding the ceremony, the Minister presented the fisheries inspectors from the three countries with certificates recognising the significance of their participation in this first trilateral SADC fisheries patrol.

Source: www.deat.gov.za


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