The story of three Chinese chokka long-line trawlers allegedly fishing illegally in South African waters, nabbed by the navy and escorted to East London was one of the highest-read stories on an international website earlier today, with the issue driven by a determined group of “armchair warriors” along the SA coast.

The three vessels have been impounded in East London harbour, brought there on Sunday night as part of a joint operation by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) vessel Sarah Baartman, the SA Maritime Safety Authority and the SA Navy’s SAS Drakensberg, according to news reports. Their hauls of fish and squid were estimated to be worth R70 million.

A post early Tuesday by T Kristofferson Fourie on the Facebook page of Salt Fishing South Africa, which has played a crucial role in raising the alarm of illegal fishing off South Africa’s coast over the past few weeks especially, said, “I think we should give credit not only to Mark Hicks but also to everyone who has been active on Salt Fishing South Africa and keeping the momentum going.”

The trawlers impounded in East London harbour. Photos from Chinese Trawlers Must Go Facebook page.

He added, “This morning the story about the illegal trawlers was the third highest voted World News story on Reddit (Reddit is one of the biggest Internet communities worldwide) and can be rather influential as many celebrities and world politicians read and comment on this site.”

The story on Reddit, “Illegal Chinese fishing vessels impounded in East London (South Africa) after attempting to evade the Navy with 600 Tons of catches onboard”, came from Algoa FM.

It was Hicks who, more than a week earlier and using only a cheap phone app, had noticed some suspicious activity taking place off the coast between Durban and the Eastern Cape, where a group of Chinese trawlers disappeared from the screen for several hours. His post was shared thousands of times, and many others posted too – so-called “armchair warriors” keeping an eye on illegal coastline activity.


The navy and DAFF vessels went after the group of boats last week and were escorting some of them back to Cape Town, when all but one of them apparently took off in different directions.

According to reports on Monday, a spokesman for the DAFF said when they tried to intercept two of the boats, they played cat and mouse with the South Africans until they were caught. En route to East London a third vessel was found and escorted back too.

The boats were the Fu Yuan Yu 7880 (with about 340 tons of squid), Fu Yang Yu 7881 (about 60 tons of squid) and the Run Da 617 (about 200 tons of squid and fish) – although they could have been part of the group last week, which was named Lu Huang Yuan Yu.

The capture of the vessels drew a huge response from the public, and many negative remarks – not only about the nationality of the fishermen but, bizarrely enough, the South African defence forces who had put up such a great chase to catch them.

Said Marthin Fick, “The different forces, Navy, air force saps daff etc read our comments here. They have done excellent work in this instance. Let’s not be negative here. In fact let’s be positive. This might be the start of many more things to come. But if I was in charge and I read all this negative stuff, I’d give up now already.”

One of the most recent posts on Salt Fishing’s page is by Kevin Patrick Tuohy, one of the administrators, asking people commenting on the page to be respectful of others. Even though people might be understandably angry, the site would not tolerate foul language and racism.

“RACISM has no place on this site. There have been numerous derogatory comments aimed at Chinese people in general. Please refrain from this immediately!”