East London - Floating buoys, believed to be illegal, used to catch tuna and sharks with fresh bait have been discovered about 13 nautical miles off the East Coast by recreational fishermen.
The crew of the Nora Whitmore, an ex-NSRI boat, discovered the buoys when the lines got tangled up with their anchor yesterday.
"The lines are illegal in South African waters," said Wayne Sparg, skipper of the Nora Whitmore. "We retrieved one buoy and then discovered a whole line with fresh bait still hooked on it."
The crew managed to retrieve two of the buoys, along with approximately 150 metres of floating lines.
Crew member Gerry Landman said the lines were possibly used to catch tuna or even sharks and they normally ran for as long as 30 kilometres.
The crew said that at the time they had seen a longline boat travelling up the coast in the direction of Transkei.
"We do not know if the buoys belong to the longline vessel, but it was the only ship that was in the vicinity at the time. There was Chinese writing on the boat from what we could make out," said Ian Opperman, who was with the crew at sea at the time.
The buoys had the words Made in Taiwan printed on them in English and Chinese.
The Border police water wing's senior inspector for Transkei, Harry van Gerwen, said: "It sounds as if these buoys are illegal because they have no markings on them and were found underneath the water."
He said legal buoys were normally clearly marked and found floating above the water.
Landman said the lines were extremely dangerous to smaller vessels and could possibly topple a boat if they got entangled in the motor.
Chief Inspector Puka Zako of Marine Coastal Management said he was not aware of any illegal floating buoys found out at sea.