Nearly 300kg of fish and squid have been seized and nearly R20,000 worth of fines have been issued in a series of raids by fisheries inspectors and ports police in Nelson Mandela Bay this month.
Department of environment, forestry and fisheries spokesperson Albi Modise confirmed on Thursday inspectors from his department and ports of entry police based at Ngqura had worked together on the operations which targeted several shops across the Bay.
In the most recent raids, on Wednesday, the joint task force swooped on two shops in Durban Road, Korsten.
The first was Tobacco Zone Cash and Carry where they discovered large quantities of fish for which the owner, Kammal Uddin, could not produce the necessary paperwork, and which included non-commercial species, Modise said.
“While they were busy there a bakkie arrived to deliver more fish.
“The driver could not explain the fish in his possession and, when we visited his shop, Bushra Trading, owned by Ali Akbar, also in Durban Road, another large volume of fish was discovered.
“In total in these two raids they confiscated 146 spotted grunters, 42 cob, 23 mullets, 15 blacktail, one white steenbras and two mud gurnard.”
In both cases the fish were packed in freezers together with other products.
The shop owners said they bought them from members of the public — apparently anglers who caught them in nearby estuaries like Swartkops and Sundays, or ski-boaters, who caught them in the bay.
In both cases the shop owners had initially argued that the fish were for their own consumption but this was negated by the large numbers found, Modise said.
“In both cases the necessary invoices could not be produced.
“This paperwork is important to help the department keep control of fisheries and to combat illegal exploitation and trade.
“The fish seized also contained several non-commercial species which may be caught recreationally but which cannot be sold on, like grunters and blacktail.
“The two shop owners paid admission of guilt fines of R5,000 each.”
Modise said that in a raid on February 3, the task team hit the shop Super Lucky in Cawood Street in North End where owner Chunxing Chen had already been prosecuted twice before for transgressions of the Marine Living Resources Act.
“There they discovered and confiscated silverfish, kob, panga, red steenbras, yellow belly rock kod, blacktails, Cape stumpnose and red steenbras totalling 30kg.
“Once again the necessary paperwork could not be produced and there were also non-commercial species which also included red steenbras and Cape stumpnose.
“An admission of guilt fine of R2,500 was paid.”
In a raid on February 11, by fisheries inspectors alone, a supermarket in Mount Pleasant on Buffelsfontein Road was targeted, he said.
“The inspectors had information that this shop was allegedly being used in the illegal trans-shipment of squid.
“The allegation was that this squid was being brought ashore illegally in small boats via Noordhoek Ski Boat Club and Port Elizabeth harbour to avoid the legal declaration process.
“At this store the inspectors discovered 60kg of squid divided into packets for sale to customers for bait or to eat.”
A fine of R2,500 was issued but the owner had not yet paid it and neither he nor his store could as yet be named.
Modise said the raids would be continuing.
In terms of transgressions under the Marine Living Resources Act, the courts could impose a fine of as much as R800,000 and/ or two years imprisonment.