Quotas set to be cancelled to save abalone stocks

2014-05-23 00:00

CAPE TOWN — A shock awaits the abalone industry and communities who rely on this tasty sea snail for an income, as all indications are that commercial abelone quotas will be cancelled by the end of July.

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson told sister paper Die Burger in an exclusive interview yesterday studies showed commercial abelone quotas had to be cancelled, because the mollusk’s breeding population had reached an all-time low.

Commercial divers in towns like Hawston in the southern Cape were yesterday shocked about the possibility.

“What else can we make a living with?” asked Stephen Maree, a commercial diver with a quota. “They can’t just take it away from me!”

Parliament had warned as far back as 2012 that quotas may be cancelled as the battle against abalone poachers escalated.

Joemat-Pettersson said interest groups in the communities had not yet been consulted on the issue, and public meetings will be held between now and July.

“All the signs are there that this sector must be closed. When that is is done, alternatives for the communities involved will be offered.

“In Hawston the catch of red steenbras may for example be allowed, as this community had originally suggested when they first head of the possibility of having to stop diving for abalone.

“There is evidence that the sector must be closed and scientists will advise the minister before the final decision is announced in in June or July.”

The commercial abelone industry is worth about R100 million a year.

Department spokesperson Lionel Adendorf said fears that the announcement will lead to increased abalone poaching were unfounded.

He said abalone poaching always took place, regardless of whether the sector was closed or not, but added there were now more marine policing resources available to limit poaching.

Joemat-Petterson said when people’s legal means to make a living was removed, it normally led to corruption.

But she cautioned fishing communities to find alternatives to make a living from the sea.

“Communities are for example already involved with the processing of abalone seized by the police.”

She said these factories added value to the raw abalone and gave people other income options than just diving for the sea slug. She urged communities to re-open such factories in places like Gans­baai, Port Nolloth and Hondeklipbaai.

Joemat-Petterson said local fisherman had to think differently about the fishing industry, adding people could also look at abalone farming in the deep sea.

She said there was not enough to go around, with up to 1 560 applications for example received for 215 traditional line fishing rights.

She said people should not see marine quotas as their only source of income. “There are alternatives, like co-operations which can be formed and there are state projects to finance [the co-ops].

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