Speaking at Pugu in Dar es Salaam where the consignment was set ablaze, minister for Livestock and Fisheries Luhaga Mpina said the fish stacked in a 40-feet container were sneaked into the country through illegal means.
He said importers of the container used unofficial routes to ship the fish into the country but abandoned after being pursued by authorities for and the same was to be auctioned.
But before auctioning the normally delicious and nutritious fish, relevant authorities conducted toxicology tests which revealed above normal amounts of poisons.
“The tests found 690 PPB (parts per billion) of mercury which is above the authorised measurement of 500 PPB,” Mpina said.
He added that another toxin found in the fish that almost entered the market was 2.4′ DDT whose concentration in the stock was measured at 19.4, far above the allowed below 10.
Above normal mercury is known to produce harmful effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems, lungs and kidneys, and may be fatal. On the other hand, oral exposure to high levels of DDT in humans results in central nervous system effects such as headaches, nausea and convulsions.
If the fish entered the market and consumed, it would have been impossible to link the possible health consequences to the food since the effects take time to emerge, the minister noted.
The fish smuggling took place in contravention of the Fisheries Act of 2003 which governs protection, conservation, regulation and control of fish, fish products, aquatic flora and its products.
The Principal Fisheries Officer for protection of fish resources, Nchama Marwa said illegal fishing has led to the dwindling of fish resources, forcing investors in fish processing to import fish from abroad.
In 2017, the government reported a sharp decline of fish stocks in the country’s Indian Ocean economic zone, blamed on the use of dynamite fishing and overfishing.
Ministerial reports have in recent months highlighted that pirates were fishing illegally in Tanzanian deep waters using dynamite.
Fish catches declined to 360,000 tonnes in 2016 from an average 390,000 tonnes in previous years, while the country’s total demand is 730,000 tonnes of fish per year.
Local companies had resorted to importing fish from China, with data showing that 2,000 tonnes of mackerel fish enter Tanzania every month from that source, the report indicated.