'Alarming revelations' in Western Cape perlemoen report

2017-06-14 17:46
Confiscated perlemoen. (SAPS, file)

Confiscated perlemoen. (SAPS, file)

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Cape Town - A report into the impact of perlemoen poaching on small-scale fishing communities has raised a number of "alarming revelations" that need to be urgently addressed, according to a Western Cape legislature committee chairperson on Wednesday.

Beverley Schäfer, who heads up the standing committee on economic opportunities, tourism and agriculture, on Wednesday said it looked as though the police and some government departments had failed to effectively tackle poaching.

"The poverty in which many of the Western Cape's fishing communities still live, has driven many individuals to illegal poaching as a means to put food on the table," she said.

South Africa was the world's third largest supplier of farmed perlemoen, with an estimated production of around 1 450 tons in 2015.

"Fishermen and women have capitalised on the illegal poaching and sale of this marine produce as a means to escape poverty and make easy money," she said.

The poaching was most prevalent among those without fishing rights or quotas.

Under-resourced law enforcement

Organised crime and gang-related activity were intrinsically linked to the illegal trade, bringing drug use and heightened violence to communities.

Schäfer said nothing was being done to provide residents with a means to earn a living from the ocean, something they had done for generations.

The report also found that national law enforcement to combat poaching was under-resourced and under-capacitated.

According to Schäfer, the SA Police Service had revealed to the provincial community safety standing committee last week that there were no water wing units operating provincially or nationally due to a lack of resources.

"In a province which is uniquely bordered by two oceans, this is absolutely alarming and indicative of the ongoing abalone poaching which continues unabated."

The report was based on written submissions and public hearings held in Saldanha Bay, Gansbaai and Cape Town in February this year.

The public hearings revealed that a prior ban on recreational fishing, to conserve certain marine resources, had had a negative impact on small fishing communities.

"Local and international tourists alike are intimidated by gangsters and poachers who have moved into these coastal areas, and the usual influx of money into these communities as a result of coastal tourism has ceased completely."

Neglected harbours

Many found that gaining access to small-scale fishing rights and quotas were overcomplicated and poorly enforced.

This was apparently due to language barriers in legislation and a lack of understanding between the national fisheries department and fishermen.

Schäfer was also concerned about recovery plans and future fishing.

"Currently, rock lobster population levels are at a mere 2% of what they used to be, and abalone populations currently sit at 20% of former levels, having decreased by an alarming 15% in the past five years alone."

The report found that 12 small boat harbours in the Western Cape had been severely neglected.

"As these harbours have fallen into a state of disrepair, the fishing economy and the role of harbour in the tourism value chain in the Western Cape which relies on this infrastructure subsequently collapses."

The committee has made a number of recommendations to various provincial departments.

These include the possibility of creating specialised poaching police units and setting up a provincial prosecution unit through the biodiversity crime unit.

Read more on:    police  |  cape town  |  poaching

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