Operation Phakisa assists in coordination of marine enforcement activities

15 September 2019

The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries’ recently released 2018/19 National Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Report highlights the work of the Green Scorpions in the various sectors of the environment, including initiatives under the Operation Phakisa: Oceans Economy

The annual Report outlines the work done by the Green Scorpions in the past financial year.

The Enhanced and Coordinated Compliance and Enforcement Initiative being implemented under Operation Phakisa has resulted in greater collaboration in ensuring maritime laws and regulations are effectively implemented along the South African coast.

The effective implementation of what is known as Phakisa: Initiative 5, has proven that an integrated coordinated approach to maritime compliance and enforcement is possible, effective, and has a positive impact on the environment.  This initiative involves numerous government departments and agencies mandated to undertake enforcement within this space, including the police, fisheries, environmental and conservation authorities, SAMSA, Customs, intelligence structures, the SANDF as well as the Department of Home Affairs and Minerals and Energy.

Operation Phakisa highlights government’s commitment to enhancing the blue ocean economy, enforcing maritime and marine legislation and combatting the pillaging of marine resources by poachers and illegal foreign fishing vessels. 

The situation pertaining to the illegal harvesting of marine resources along the seaboard remains critical.  There poachers have become increasingly aggressive and this has led to injuries, seen the burning of state infrastructure and has contributed to the loss of life. 

The increasingly aggressive nature of the poachers could be attributed to the successes of Operation Phakisa, the disruption in the illegal trade and the losses sustained by the crime syndicates.  The positive impact Operation Phakisa has had when officials are deployed in the region is noticeable and local communities have expressed appreciation for the presence of the enforcement officers.  However, these achievements continue to be underscored by the intensification of poaching activities as soon as the Phakisa operations end and security personnel withdraw from an area.

Although the Initiative 5 confiscations in the period under review totalled R28 022 983.00 compared to R40 617 927.00 for 2017/2018, it must be noted that the difference can be attributed to a large drug bust during the previous year.  In the 2017/18 financial year, the SARS-led Operation Bark and Bite resulted in the confiscation of drugs in Cape Town harbour valued at more than R30 million.

In the past year the number of marine resources confiscated, however, increased dramatically, resulting in the confiscation of abalone worth more than R21.3 million and rock lobster worth more than R675 000.  Equipment used in illegal activities worth more than R5 million, as well as other illicit goods, including drugs, were confiscated during the raids.

Searches, visits and operational activity have continued, projecting a visible government presence in the coastal regions, inclusive of the small ports.  The establishment of a reactive capacity has proven successful and has met with significant successes. 

In 2018, South Africa also participated in the INTERPOL-led “30 Days at Sea” global marine law enforcement operation.  During this operation, 369 ships were inspected in South African ports and coastal waters, with a host of environmental violations being detected and the necessary action being taken.

The operation concentrated on environmental and pollution issues mainly, poor record keeping by vessels under trade, waste management by both the Port Authority and vessels, and the construction of illegal structures in coastal regions.

The “30 Days at Sea” involved environmental, fisheries, maritime and border agencies, national police, customs, and port authorities worldwide. 

There were two significant highlights of the operation undertaken by South African authorities.  The first was the seizure of 33 thousand kilograms of Shark Fin in a Cape Town storage facility.  The fins belonged to thousands of species of sharks, some listed as threatened or threatened with extinction by the South African Threatened or Protected Species (TOPS) Regulations. 

The second was the successful prosecution of the Master of the Ukraine Flagged Fish Factory Ship MORE SODRUZHESTVA for discharging sewage into the Port of Cape Town.

In other inspections, CITES species to the value of R500 000, Cycads valued at R10 000 and Animal Skins worth R5 000 were confiscated in KwaZulu-Natal.

As a result of the operation, more than 5 000 tonnes of waste was removed from the marine environment.  Three companies were also penalised for discharging sewage and potentially harmful pollutants into the ocean.

South Africa’s participation in the “30 Days at Sea” under the auspices of Phakisa Initiative 5 demonstrates the commitment of the government to combat marine environmental crimes and emphasises the integrated approach to border management.

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Albi Modise
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