Illegal units of dried abalone confiscated during level 3 of lockdown. Picture: Supplied.
Illegal units of dried abalone confiscated during level 3 of lockdown. Picture: Supplied.

Poachers back in full force as lockdown restrictions ease

Time of article published Oct 17, 2020

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Gameema Salie

THE Covid-19 lockdown assisted with anti-poaching efforts as roadblocks prevented divers from gaining access to hot spots by vehicle.

Now with a relaxation of the lockdown, CapeNature said divers want to make up for lost time.

Senior manager at CapeNature, Pierre de Villiers, said poaching was a big problem and about 3 000 to 4 000 tons of illegal abalone reached the eastern market every year.

“Lockdown levels 5 and 4 assisted the anti-poaching efforts as the roadblocks prevented divers from accessing the hot spots by vehicle. Once travel was allowed the poaching began with the aim to make up for lost time. Hot spots are the Overberg coastline between Rooi-Els and the Breede Estuary, Plettenberg Bay and the West Coast up to St Helena Bay,” he said.

Meanwhile, An ex-poacher spoke about misconceptions about abalone poachers.

“From the racial dynamics of black and coloured poachers being labelled as alleged poachers to white poachers being referred to as ‘divers’; the rhetoric that those who catch abalone illegally are involved in gangs or gang-related activities to the dirty cops who sell confiscated abalone into the black market and all the men shot and killed by law enforcement at sea, whose bodies don’t make it back to the shores.

“Everyone focuses on us, the small guys, but it’s the people with money who are dangerous.”

Head of projects at Fisheries and Aquaculture Developmental Institute Sulaiman Appoles echoed that poaching was an issue. “There has been a reduction in access and quantum of fishing rights and quotas granted to local traditional small-boat fisher folk. There are approximately five big fishing corporates, who along with their string of subsidiaries own more than what the entire so-called “small-scale” sector, consisting of tens-of-thousands of both full-time fishery-reliant fishers and seasonal fish workers combined,” he said.

Spokesperson for the Hawks, Lieutenant-Colonel Philani Nkwalase, said crime syndicates in hot spots of abalone poaching also threatened legal fishermen with violence and intimidation.

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