South Africa: Fishing and fresh fish products onboard

Port news

Published: 5 June 2019

Man fishing on a big game fishing trip (picture)
Credit to: project1photography /

It is not uncommon for seafarers, whilst at anchorage or in South African ports, to fish off the side of their vessel. This practice is illegal unless the seafarer is in possession of a fishing permit and that any fish that are caught are within the correct catch and bag size. The Department of Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) have appointed inspectors who attend on vessel's to check whether there is any illegal fish on board.

Three seafarers were faced with arrest and prosecution recently under the Marine Living Resources Act No. 18 of 1988. Under the act, the fine can be as much as 2 million rand or up to 5 years imprisonment.

The DAFF inspectors have also informed our correspondent that ALL ships calling at South African ports were also required to disclose whether they have fish products on board and where those fish products were obtained. If the master fails to make such disclosure and they find fresh fish products on board, they can detain and fine the vessel. The fine is up to 2 million rand or 5 years imprisonment.

So, no fishing is permitted in South African waters without a permit and vessels must disclose whether they have fresh fish products on board. If they do, the master must disclose the origin of the fresh fish.

Whilst the above may seem trivial, if a master is arrested or the vessel is detained, for breach of the above legislation, then the vessel could be delayed, taken off hire, and the financial implications as a result of any off-hire could have greater financial consequences for owners.

The Association is grateful to P&I Associates for contributing to this alert.