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The Mozambican fisheries authorities have seized about eight tonnes of juvenile fish and prawns that were caught illegally during the closed season, in the waters of Dondo and Muanza districts, in the central province of Sofala.
The head of fisheries inspection in Sofala, Cesar Maphossa, told reporters that since the legislation on the closed season also bans the transport of fisheries produce caught in this period, the boat and vehicle used to transport the fish and prawns have also been seized.
The closed season runs from 31 December to 31 March. The culprits were artisanal fishermen, using trawl nets, who have not yet been located.
Mphossa said that, if the fish and prawns are fit for human consumption, they will be given to charitable institutions. If not, they will be incinerated.
The boat and the truck used to transport the illegal produce will only be returned to their owners against payment of fines, which could be as high as 300,000 meticais (about 5,000 US dollars).
The boat was carrying 2.7 tonnes of produce and set off from Muanza to supply the market in Beira. The truck set off from the Dondo coast, and was also heading for Beira when it was seized. Maphossa said that, if the fines are not paid within eight days, then the boat and the truck will be forfeit to the state.
“What we want is to discourage illicit practices, so that fishing is sustainable”, he added, warning that by fishing in the closed season fishermen could endanger the reproduction of fish and crustaceans.
“When the fishing season begins, we want all fishermen – artisanal, industrial and semi-industrial – to be able to obtain a sustainable catch”, said Maphossa.