Poached fish for dinner:uShaka restaurant fined R180?000 for buying illegal fish

2011-04-01 00:00

A PROMINENT Durban seafood restaurant, the Emperor’s Kitchen in the uShaka Marine complex, was fined R180 000 after pleading guilty to several counts of possession of seafood bought illegally from local poachers, Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife said yesterday.

The owner of the restaurant, Hong Ping Wu, and manager Paul Wu appeared in the Durban Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday.

Ping Wu pleaded guilty on behalf of the restaurant and was fined R180 000. Paul Wu pleaded guilty in his personal capacity and was sentenced to a fine of R120 000 or 12 months’ imprisonment.

The case was the result of an inspection by Ezemvelo officers in July last year where, with the help of Customs and Excise and trained sniffer dogs, they discovered 70 protected East Coast rock lobsters hidden in dustbins in the restaurant’s kitchen.

The search also revealed six abalone and local fish suspected to have been bought illegally from spear fishermen.

According to a statement from Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife, magistrate M.Z. Ngcobo remarked that it was disturbing to see vulnerable species being targeted for profit in a crime of greed, which flouted strict laws in place to preserve marine species for future generations.

Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife spokesperson Jeff Gaisford said offences of this nature create a market for the illegal trade in marine species. He warned restaurants as well as private individuals not to buy fish or lobsters from local divers, but from recognised dealers.

“Members of the public or any restaurant buying seafood from a recognised dealer must retain the invoices as proof of purchase in case of a query from Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife,” he said.

“We have a very well-developed intelligence network and it is inevitable that we will find out where illegally gathered species are being sold”.

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