Man pleads guilty in abalone syndicate case

2013-10-12 09:30

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Cape Town - A court sentenced a man to two years in prison on Friday, after he pleaded guilty to helping transport 3 243 abalone as part of an international criminal ring.

Rampant poaching has decimated the abalone population to feed demand for the high-priced delicacy in Asia, where the molluscs have also been over harvested, forcing buyers to look elsewhere.

Accused Peter Jansen appeared with more than 20 other suspects facing some 530 charges, including illegal possession of abalone, racketeering and corruption in what officials said was one of the biggest abalone criminal bust so far.

The alleged mastermind, Chinese national Ran Wei, has fled South Africa after police caught members of the syndicate last year and he is being charged in absentia.

Plea bargain

In Jansen's plea bargain, he admitted to hiring the car that transported 3 243 shucked abalone with an estimated value of R300 000 to Johannesburg.

"The seized abalone was clearly not for own consumption but for commercial purposes of exporting and selling," his guilty plea statement said.

Eleanor Yeld Hutchings, a manager at World Wide Fund's (WWF) marine programme, said the abalone industry was an extreme example of a fishery with high levels of illegal, unregulated and unreported catch.

Some researchers estimate that the illegal harvest for 2008 was 860 tons, more than 10 times the legal total allowable catch (TAC) of 85 tons for that year. Comparable levels are believed to have been since then.

"If poaching continues at its current level, and the TAC remains stable for the legal commercial catch, abalone could reach commercial extinction by 2030," said Yeld Hutchings.

Besides poaching in its waters, South Africa is also facing a dire threat to its rhino population which are being killed in their hundreds for their valuable horns.

Read more on:    wwf  |  cape town  |  poaching  |  marine life

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