Mtwara — The village leaders and members of environment conservation committee in Mnazi Bay and the Ruvuma Marine Park, have requested the government to allow them to punish people suspected to engage in illegal fishing in the marine park.
Village chairmen, executive officers and members of village environment conservation committees, said they had reached that decision after the courts failed to convict and punish the suspects.
The leaders raised their concern during a meeting that discussed the new programme for the marine park management. They claimed that despite arresting the suspects often in possession of illegal fishing tools, the courts acquitted them for lack of evidence.
“Illegal fishing can be stopped if the culprits are severely punished,” said Mr Abiola Mtalika, a member of the committee on environment conservation in Nalingu village
State attorney in Mtwara Zone Renatus Mkude opposed the idea, saying under the rule of law “We can not grab the court’s authority by allowing people to practice jungle justice.” He said their proposal was not correct under the law.
Mtwara district commissioner Elaston Mbwillo, who was the guest of honour during the opening of the meeting, warned the leaders against taking the law unto their hands, instead they should appear in courts to testify against the suspects.
“If you don’t go to courts and testify, how do you expect the courts to convict the suspects. Let’s cooperate with the magistrates to curb the problem,” said Mr Mbwillo.
Earlier, the marine park conservator, Mr Redfred Ngowo, said during the past five years, there were many cases of illegal fishing using dynamite.
“Over the last five years, the park management donated fishing equipment to 556 fish men worth Sh181.6 million in a bid to reduce the use of illegal fishing tools, but the problem still persists,” said Mr Ngowo.
He said the park is surrounded by 17 villages whose residents were dependent on its marine resources for their livelihood.