A seafood restaurant in the uShaka Marine World complex was found guilty in the Durban Magistrate’s Court for possession of seafood bought illegally, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife said today.
“Emperor’s Kitchen pleaded guilty to several counts of possession of seafood bought illegally from local poachers,” spokesman Jeff Gaisford said.
Restaurant owner Hong Ping Wu and manager Paul Wu appeared in court on Tuesday after trained sniffer dogs found 70 protected East Coast rock lobsters in their kitchen in July last year.
The lobsters, which may not be sold, bought or served in restaurants, were found hidden in dustbins in the restaurant kitchen.
Six abalone and a variety of protected local fish were also found.
Hong Ping Wu pleaded guilty on behalf of the restaurant, which was sentenced to a fine of R180 000.
Paul Wu pleaded in his personal capacity and was sentenced to a fine of R120 000 or 12 months imprisonment. Parts of the sentences were suspended for five years.
Gaisford said cases like this created a market for the illegal trade in marine species, warning restaurants and citizens not to buy fish or lobsters from local divers.
“Members of the public or any restaurant buying seafood from a recognised dealer must retain the invoices as proof of purchase in case of a query,” he said.
“We have a very well-developed intelligence network and it is inevitable that we will find out where illegally gathered species are being sold.”
The wildlife body said it would continue monitoring divers, spear fishers and anglers.
East Coast rock lobsters, popularly known as crayfish, take a few years to mature and may not be caught using scuba gear or a boat.
Restaurants may only sell West Coast rock lobster or deep-water rock lobster.