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Camps Bay’s poaching underworld: Residents blow the whistle on illegal activities

The scenic Camps Bay is a prime holiday location… but it is also a poaching hotspot. File picture: Independent Newspapers

The scenic Camps Bay is a prime holiday location… but it is also a poaching hotspot. File picture: Independent Newspapers

Published Nov 4, 2023


Cape Town – Upmarket Camps Bay has been flagged as a hotspot for marine poachers. Residents have blown the whistle on illegal activities, helping police make a breakthrough with the arrest of nine abalone underworld suspects.

Law enforcement and the suburb’s Community Policing Forum (CPF) including the ward councillor have raised the alarm over increasing poaching activities.

In response, the CPF wants to establish a City Improvement District (CID) to combat crime, including poaching.

The forum’s Martin Steinau said they were working with the police and the security sector to ensure the sea and suburb were ring-fenced against criminals.

“We are grateful that law enforcement is taking the necessary proactive steps to clamp down on unlawful activities,” Steinau said.

“Camps Bay is currently in the process of trying to establish a CID. Should this be successful, the CID would come into operation in July.

“We have a very active and concerned community in Camps Bay that reports any suspicious behaviour via the neighbourhood watch (Camps Bay Watch) communication channels.

“These sightings are immediately logged with the relevant role players who generally react very swiftly if resources are available.”

Steinau said a CID would go a long way to improve security.

“A CID would have dedicated and paid for resources who are better positioned to co-ordinate and react to any unlawful activities in the area.

“They would also consistently activate the relevant role players in a timely manner. As the CPF, we hope that this initiative comes to fruition because it will be an added security layer.

“The CPF is pleased to have the Camps Bay SAPS acting station commander, a Captain Fortuin, back in the area. She recently took over from Captain Chandler who went into retirement.

“We will be working closely with the Camps Bay SAPS, Law Enforcement, Metro, etc. to strengthen our approach to unlawful behaviour in the area.”

Nicola Jowell, councillor for Ward 54 of Camps Bay, said whistle-blowers led to the arrests in the last two weeks.

“Poaching is an ongoing concern in the area and anyone with detailed information to assist the authorities should contact SANParks or the SAPS to alert them,” she said.

“The City’s law enforcement officers and marine unit will continue to assist with preventative measures and operations to disrupt poaching activities.

“In the last two weeks, law enforcement has been involved in a number of good arrests and preventative actions.

“In the most recent arrest, the Sea Point law enforcement team arrested a large group after a tip-off,” Jowell said.

“They were intercepted and were found in the possession of abalone and arrested.

“There have also been two separate occasions in the last two weeks where vehicles believed to be connected to poaching have been stopped.

“Operations with regard to poaching are ongoing.”

The Camps Bay Ratepayers Association was approached, but could not comment.

Wayne Dyason, the spokesperson for the City’s Law Enforcement Department, said poaching in Camps Bay district had become more worrisome. But residents were pulling the plug on illegal operations by reporting them.

“We are aware of more frequent reports of poachers in the area and respond to complaints once they are logged with our Public Emergency Communication Centre,” he said.

“Many of our successes are based on information given to us by concerned members of the public.

“The City, through its Marine Unit and area law enforcement officers, are constantly acting in support of the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment and South African National Parks and police in the fight against illegal fishing. Joint operations are routinely conducted to react to complaints and also to be proactive.”

Dyason said the illegal harvesting of abalone and rock lobster was dealt with in terms of the Marine and Living Resources Act.

“It is illegal to dive for abalone or rock lobster without a permit within the Table Mountain Marine Protected Area and the Robben Island Marine Protected area, which both fall within the Atlantic seaboard,” he said.

In recent weeks, poachers were caught red-handed in Camps Bay and arrests continue.

“On October 22, four divers were detained by law enforcement in the Camps Bay area,” he said.

“On November 1, law enforcement also detained five divers who were caught in the early hours of the morning with diving equipment in Camps Bay and five vehicles were stopped which contained diving equipment.

“No illegal fish (abalone, rock lobster) were found.”

The Western Cape Traffic Law Enforcement services made arrests to the value of R19 498 536.50 linked to confiscated illicit goods this year alone. This was revealed in the tabling of the Department of Transport and Public Works Annual Report for the 2022/23 fiscal year in September.

These included abalone worth R3.7 million.

Recently, Mayco member for safety and security, JP Smith, said a long link existed between poaching and gang activities in Cape Town. These included poaching operations, drug dealing and firearm conflict. It was linked to the demand for crayfish and abalone on Asian black markets.