Poachers dive in

2017-12-19 06:00

Former poachers in Hangberg and the Hout Bay area will soon be doing things by the book after they complete their training.

Nine divers from this area are being trained by Guerrini Marine Construction (GMC) together with Jack’s Dive Chest.

Leaving the risky life of illegal poaching behind, those being trained will become commercial divers. This will help them to put food on the table for their families through legal means.

The project was awarded to GMC through a tender process by the Department of Public Works. The owners, Adriano Guerrini and Rob Bower, realised that there was a need for their company to play a role in poverty-stricken communities by educating them and empowering them through job creation.

Tracy Benjamin from GMC says the training will provide a better alternative to the risky life of poaching. “Many of these individuals had little to no opportunity in life and some were previous convicts, but GMC knew that we needed to impact this sphere to assist where we can and to mobilise the long talked-about Project Phakisa. The majority of the participants were selected from Hout Bay’s Hangberg community due to the tender area being Hout Bay and with most of the riots that had taken place, we felt that in order to bring about positive and effective change, we would need to begin at home.”

The training consists of a six-week leg, with three different components.

“There was an intense selection process. The trainees are well aware that once they are certified they will be able to go offshore and earn much more money. We are hoping for them to remain in the company’s employ; however we are a project-driven company and this will be solely dependent on there being work, which there currently is, and the successful awarding of more tenders,” adds Benjamin.

Benjamin has no doubt that training the former poachers is a step in the right direction.

“It will definitely be a solution in this area, which has a lot of illegal poachers. The project has proven to make a huge impact already in the area. They were literally risking their lives, as sharks are attracted to the abalone that leaks while swimming back, and also if caught illegally poaching they can face jail time,” she says.

Most of these former poachers were involved in a life of poaching for many years, she adds.

“They come from a fisherman’s community. There is never an excuse for any criminal activity; however they were placed in a difficult position due to their previously disadvantaged status through apartheid and therefore they understood that they needed to make money through any means possible, to put food on the table.”

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