Call for new abalone poaching crackdown

2012-04-26 18:15
Cape Town - The DA on Thursday called for a new crackdown on abalone (perlemoen) poaching.

"Re-institute Operation Trident with appropriate institutional support, such as the green courts," Democratic Alliance fisheries spokesperson, Pieter van Dalen, said in a statement.

Operation Trident, launched in 2004, was an initiative that focused on smashing the syndicates and gangs involved in the poaching of abalone in the Overberg region of the Western Cape.

It involved the deployment of SA Police Service and conservation officials, who worked to secure high prosecution rates and jail times, through special environmental or "green courts" for those caught poaching.

"At least part of the battle against abalone poaching is to convince the illicit industry that the costs are simply too high," Van Dalen said.

Brink of extinction

The "binge" of illegal harvesting by syndicates had brought South Africa’s stock of wild abalone to the brink of extinction.

Van Dalen said there was a lack of a "credible deterrence mechanism" to stop the poaching, and suggested the department of fisheries was not interested in stopping it.

"The department of fisheries relies on the sale of confiscated abalone to fund a substantial part of its operational budget. It thus has a financial interest to ensure that large scale poaching continues so that the product can then be confiscated and sold at a profit," he said.

The department said it would respond to the DA statement and related questions later on Thursday.

Uncontrolled poaching

Van Dalen said growing institutional failures and the "collapse of governance" at the department was a direct contributing factor to uncontrolled poaching.

"South African waters remain completely open to vast and unchecked illegal, unregulated and unplanned fishing, as our R1bn fleet of patrol vessels continue to lie idle in Simon's Town harbour."

He also called for the creation of "incentive structures to secure community policing" to overcome the gangs involved in the poaching.

"This is obviously the most challenging aspect of eradicating abalone poaching."

Until these steps were implemented, however, the country's marine resources would continue to be stripped.

"The current apathy is tantamount to condoning poaching," he said.

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