‘Abalone poachers destroy local communities’

Cape Town - The Hawks have netted more than R136 million worth of abalone over the past seven years as they home in on poaching syndicates operating in the Western Cape.

Briefing the provincial parliament’s standing committee on Economic Opportunities, Tourism and Agriculture, Colonel Jacques Visser from the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) said they had seven major cases under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) before the courts.

The Cape Town Dog Unit and the SAPS Stellenbosch Crime Intelligence unit recovered 14 bags of abalone during one of the many raids that has netted R136m worth of abalone over seven years. Credit: SAPS

He said 68 members of criminal syndicates were standing trial in these cases.

Giving a breakdown of the seizures, Visser said in the 2009/10 financial year they seized over R18.2m worth of abalone, in 2010/11 a further R25.9m; in 2011/12 R40.5m; in 2012/13 R11.4m; in 2013/14 R11.7m; in 2014/15 R12.2m, and in 2015/16 R15.8m.

Visser said 404 arrests have been made during the period 2008 to 2016, of which 145 people were convicted.

Community stakeholders from Gansbaai, Hermanus and Hawston sketched a dire picture of the devastating social ills such as drug addiction and prostitution that abalone poaching had brought to their fishing communities.

Werner Pike, the marketing manager at Abagold, said if the weather was bad, crime in the area went up. “People who can’t make a living off the sea would then make a living from breaking in,” he said.

Abagold’s Lou-Ann Lubbe stressed children being pulled into the illegal industry were getting younger and the numbers of children suffering from addiction was escalating. Lubbe said school girls were worst affected, being lured into prostitution.

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheriescancelled their scheduled briefing to the committee.