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Sun Mar 26 11:08:55 SAST 2017

How auctions of poached abalone are leaving legal fishermen high and dry

Aron Hyman | 2017-03-15 17:22:32.0

Image by: wikimedia commons

The government is now the country’s biggest abalone dealer. The department of agriculture forestry and fisheries confiscated more than 53 tons of “commercial weight” abalone in February‚ all of which it will sell on auction.

The total allowable catch for the commercial abalone fishing industry is 50 tons for the season‚ and industry watchdogs are accusing the department of contributing to the “criminalisation” of small fishing communities by selling poached abalone.

Beverley Schäfer‚ chairman of the economic opportunities and tourism committee in the Western Cape parliament‚ accused the department of flooding the market with sub-standard abalone at prices far lower than commercial fisherman could withstand.

“According to a 2014 report by the Institute for Security Studies‚ the confiscated abalone was sold at R18/kg when it could have sold it at R350/kg‚” said Schäfer.

“National government’s involvement in benefiting from confiscated abalone contributes to the criminalisation of fishing communities along our coastlines‚ and the practice of selling illegally poached abalone must stop.”

The department told The Times it confiscated more than 11 tons of poached abalone in February‚ of which 2 800kg was dried and the rest deshelled. Industry sources said that when the abalone was deshelled it lost 70% of its weight‚ and drying reduced its weight to a tenth of its live weight. One source said the total haul from poachers could have been equivalent to 110 tons of live abalone. The legal catch is split between about 120 divers‚ most of them with no other means of income.

During meetings between police‚ local government and communities such as Gansbaai‚ who live in the epicentre of the poaching pandemic‚ community members accused poachers of trading abalone for low-grade methamphetamine from China.

“Communities are continuing to live in fear and we saw how the community from Gansbaai were shot at when they were on their way to attend the third public hearing in Cape Town‚” said Schäfer. “(Government) is destroying the competitiveness of the market because they are selling a lower grade abalone. Government is also using the funds as a source of income for DAFF and not using it as they claim to combat poaching or to protect the species.”

- TMG Digital/The Times

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