TANZANIA has joined other South Western Indian Ocean (SWIO) countries in the fight against illegal fishing by ratifying the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA) which seeks to prevent unregulated fishing.
The National Assembly on Thursday endorsed ratification of the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) agreement which aims at preventing, deterring and eliminating illegal and unreported fishing activities in the Indian Ocean.
Tabling the agreement, the Minister for Livestock and Fisheries, Mr Luhaga Mpina, the pact will strengthen Tanzania’s capacity in eliminating illegal harvesting of its marine resources and eventually enable it to reap more benefits from blue economy.
Before ratification of the pact by the National Assembly yesterday, Tanzania, Yemen and the Comoros were the only three out of 12 SWIO countries which were yet to indorse the international agreement which also aims at preventing piracy.
Countries which had already ratified included Reunion, Maldives, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Somalia and South Africa.
PSMA has been ratified by 60 countries worldwide, he explained.
Mr Mpina explained further PSMA falls in line with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) of 1982, the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) in addition to FAO’s Code of Conducts for Responsible Fisheries.
In the Indian Ocean, Tanzania boasts of 64,000 square kilometres of territorial waters as well as 223,000 square kilometres of Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
The country’s coastline stretches 1,424 kilometres from Tanga to Mtwara. Despite its huge potential in stimulating the economy, the fishing industry contributed only 2.2 per cent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the year 2017.
During the same year it grew by 2.7 per cent, according to the minister.
He further that despite legal requirements through the Deep Sea Fishing Authority Act which require foreign flagged vessels to acquire fishing vessels, many of them have been violating the law by engaging in deep fishing of mainly tuna.
“The agreement will thus give us more powers to deal with illegal fishing through international laws,” he explained.
On the other hand, Mr Mpina said the government of Tanzania and South Korea will next month sign an agreement for construction of international fishing port along the Indian Ocean.
Mr Mpina said a feasibility study had been concluded at Bagamoyo, Kilwa Masoko and Lindi but the exact site where the special port will be constructed has not been decided yet.
Shadow Minister for Livestock and Fisheries, Dr Sware Semesi (Special Seats-CHADEMA), urged the government to immediately construct the international fishing port as required by international standards.
Presenting views of the opposition, the MP said it was high time the pact was ratified to enable the country to benefit from funding and training provided by FAO.
The Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, Livestock and Water was equally impressed that PSMA will enable Tanzania to boost its economy through the fishing sector.
Deputy Chairperson of the committee, Dr Christine Ishengoma (Special Seats-CCM) pointed out as well that the agreement will open market opportunities for fish products from Tanzania.
Debating the ratification, Mafia MP, Mr Mbaraka Dau (CCM) and Tanga Urban MP, Mr Mussa Mbarouk (CUF) urged the government to undertake construction of the fishing port.
The Mafia MP further proposed that part of funding to be obtained through the agreement should be used to preserve breeding areas of fish in Mafia Island.
Special Seats MP, Ms Ruth Mollel (Chadema), said it was high time the country invested heavily in the fishing sector, particularly in the deep seas, since ratification of the pact unleashes vast opportunities for the industry.