China says all trawlers were fishing legally

China has defended all three vessels under arrest in East London port, saying they had valid licences for fishing on the high seas.

China’s SA embassy spokesperson Yu Yong said last night: “These vessels were on their way back from fishing in the high sea of the southwest Atlantic ocean when they had to enter South African waters due to bad weather.”

Yu Yong said the ships carried “Licenses for Fishing on the High Seas” issued by the Chinese agricultural authorities “and other valid documents (issued) to all the three vessels”.

Following the incident, China and SA had been “actively communicating” and the Chinese embassy and consulate-general in Cape Town and the “local Chinese community” were offering “timely assistance to the vessels and their crew”.

China wanted “prompt and appropriate settlement” of the investigation “in line with the friendship and cooperation between our countries”, said Yu Yong.

Yesterday, the state clamped down on information around two Chinese trawlers and one Indonesian trawler under arrest in East London port for allegedly plundering 600 tons of squid plus other fish stocks.

Daily Dispatch has learned that this official figure is an underestimate and that the final tonnage is probably more than 700 tons, or even closer to 800 tons.

On Monday Dino Moodley, chairman of the SA Squid Management Industrial Association, valued 600 tons of squid at about R70-million but he said at 800 tons the amount lost to the local economy was closer to R85-million.

There was also large number of dorado, commonly known as dolphinfish, found onboard one of the boats, indicating the vessels’ ability to use multiple catch systems.

Yesterday three television crews hounded agriculture, fisheries and forestry (Daff) officials for access to the two-year old Chinese squid long-line trawlers Fu Yuan Yu 7880 and 7881, both over 70m long, and an unkempt-looking Indonesian squid vessel Run Da 617.

Crews climbed trees, took to boats and shot video from bridges and the opposite bank of the Buffalo River.

By lunchtime a twin-engined rubber dingy with uniformed officials was patrolling the river port close to the vessels.

Daff officials would only say their media silence was to allow for “protocol” and “processes”. They remained huddled in a meeting room at the port, a few hundred metres from where the vessels and their 100 crew. SA Maritime Safety Authority spokesman Sicelo Fayo said experts were still working through the vessels. — mikel@dispatch.co.za

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