'Fishers denied right to harvest abalone'
Cape town - Following the arrest of abalone poachers by the police and officials from the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (Daff) in the Betty’s Bay and Kleinmond areas, the SA United Fishing Front (Sauff) said communities had been denied the right to harvest abalone.
Commenting on the arrests, DA Western Cape spokesperson on environmental affairs and development planning Andricus van der Westhuizen said the police action was welcomed but it was time that the province took over the management of fishing and related resources.
“At present, the SAPS and SANDF operations occur over a period of days, thereafter leaving open a window for poaching to resume. It is abundantly clear that the Western Cape needs further law-enforcement actions.
“It stands to reason that management of fishing and related resources may well be better placed in the hands of the province for more timely co-ordination and responses based on on-the-ground realities in our communities and ocean,” Van der Westhuizen said.
However, Sauff spokesperson Pedro Garcia said: “It’s very easy for SAPS and Daff to take credit for arresting what we consider to be soft targets. It’s just as easy for the DA to score political brownie points off the plight of our already impoverished communities.
“The abalone issue is not an easy one. Abalone hasn't been allocated since 2016. It is just lying there. Daff has also committed itself to a 50/50 resources split between the small-scale fishing communities and the near shore rights holders. However, these things are not happening, so how are our people supposed to survive? We consider this as an act on the part of Daff that criminalises our people,” said Garcia.
“We will never condone poaching, but once again, looking at where these people are situated and where the resources are, and the fact that Daff is not doing its bit in terms of granting our people access to these sites, is a huge problem for us.”
Good Party spokesperson on environmental affairs and development planning Brett Herron said: “We recently met with abalone farmers in the Kleinmond area. They themselves are calling for the decriminalisation of abalone fishing.
“We need to find solutions that do not relegate people to poverty or force them into illegal trade. We need to take the lead from the industry’s call for the decriminalisation and the reintroduction of abalone into our coastlines for harvesting.
“We know that some abalone poaching is part of large criminal networks that operate criminal activities beyond abalone trade. But there are also historical fishermen who’ve lost their only source of livelihood.”
Community Against Abalone Poaching, CAAP, spokesperson Danie Keet said: “The Kleinmond situation is part of the bigger problem of abalone poaching, which has been ongoing along our coastline, and especially in the Overberg area, for more than 10 years now.”
“Politicians saying that they condemn the abalone poaching should put their foot down and stop talking. They should demand the SAPS to fulfil their mandate to act against organised crime and resulting crimes in the area," said Keet.
"In a report by provincial police ombudsman Johan Burger last year, it was said that abalone poaching should be reclassified as a Category A crime. Nothing has happened. It was proposed that more infrastructure should be made available. Nothing has happened,” said Keet.