Cape Town - In one of the biggest raids on highly endangered abalone on the Overberg coastline, almost 130 poachers on Tuesday harvested thousands of abalone near Danger Point, just outside Gansbaai.
According to a source, who for security reasons didn't want to be identified, the divers went into the sea next to the property of a well-known abalone farm outside Gansbaai and harvested the abalone, Netwerk24 reported.
"We counted more than 126 divers, but are hopelessly outnumbered. Fortunately we managed to strike early on Tuesday morning and found 37 bags containing 3 100 perlemoen.
"We also seized abalone illegally harvested near Buffeljags and arrested three suspected poachers. All three are believed to be members of Cape Town's 28s gang.
"A grey Toyota Quantum was also confiscated," the source said.
According to a member of the management committee of the environmental pressure group Community Against Abalone Poaching (CAAP) in Kleinbaai, it is disturbing how abalone poaching has escalated.
"Poachers are so arrogant now that they are walking down the street or being dropped off in full diving gear in broad daylight to dive for perlemoen."
The CAAP member said they are fighting a constant battle with authorities about action from them after informing them about when and where poachers will strike.
"The odds are normally stacked against local police and law enforcement officials of the department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries (DAFF).
"Talks about special Operation Phakisa task teams to patrol the area have also come to nought. We met with them in March this year - a delegation of about 15 senior police and DAFF members, but nothing happened.
"Promises were made to act. But it seems as if it was just that - promises. It is a crime which is obviously being allowed to flourish," the CAAP member said.
The incident on Tuesday follows a report being tabled in the Western Cape legislature last week in which concern was expressed about abalone poaching.
In the report Beverley Schäfer, the chair of the standing committee on economic development, tourism and agriculture, pointed out that abalone smuggling can be linked to crime syndicates and their operations.
"Perlemoen poaching is closely linked to gangs and drugs. The value of the poached abalone runs into millions of rand and the income generated is used to manufacture drugs such as methamphetamine (tik).
"Small scale fishermen, residents and tourists visiting these coastal towns are intimidated by gang members. It is obvious that law enforcement agencies don't have the capacity and resources to successfully tackle the problem.
"The lack of co-operation between these agencies is also of great concern."