Fifty-two persons including three foreigners with four trawlers have been arrested by the personnel of Nigerian Navy Ship, NNS for illegal fishing activities on the Brass river, Bayelsa state.
The suspects who were paraded on Tuesday in Yenagoa, the state capital have been handed over to the Federal Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture.
All the suspects arrested on board the vessel were crew members of the four vessels named “Star Shrimpers 3”, “Cosmos 1”, “Trade wind” and “ORC VII”.
Commanding Officer, Forward Operating Base, FORMOSO, Brass, Navy Capt. Suleiman Ibrahim, handed over the suspects including the three Ghanaians for further investigation and possible prosecution.
Handing over the suspects to the officials, Captain Ibrahim said, the cordial collaboration between the Navy under the Federal Ministry of defence, the Federal Department of fisheries and the Ministry of Agriculture and rural development paid off in the arrest of the suspects.
He submitted that just few days ago two vessels with crew members were also handed over for trespassing the restricted zones, adding that the law states clearly that fishing trawlers were not allowed to fish within the five nautical miles restricted zone.
“The Navy detected the illegal activities of these four fishing vessels with the use of maritime domain awareness equipment trawling within the 5 nautical miles restricted zones, and we thereafter deployed to intercept them”
“Precisely on the 24th of this month, we handed over two fishing trawlers for fishing with the 5 nautical miles restricted zone, equally the same scenario is happening again, four fishing trawlers were also arrested for the same offense and they tracked and we intercepted them”
“And I believe with this existing collaboration and partnership with other government agencies, they’ll be able to educate the companies more on the need to avoid the restricted areas to avoid crisis with local fisher men”
Receiving the suspects, the Assistant Director and Head of Monitoring, Control and Surveillance, Federal Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Mr. Popoola Babatunde, said after extensive discussion with the captains and crew members of the seized vessels, he observed that the vessels dropped within the non-trawling zones which are restricted areas meant to canoe fishermen.
He noted that appropriate action will be taken against them if found capable.
Captain Emilola Tebiti, of vessel ORC Vii and his counterpart Captain Matthew Hamusa, of vessel Star shrimpers 3, accepted their charges but argued that their raider and GPRS while trawling showed they were not within the restricted areas.
They said their various companies were aware of the allegations with documented records, adding that when they were intercepted they were still around 6.2 and 5.5 miles shore range respectively.