why is abalone illegal in south africa

Of the 56 global species, five are found in South Africa, and one of these, Haliotis midae, is regarded as among the tastiest. South African Police Service (Pretoria) press release. As a result of this binge of illegal harvesting, South Africa's stock of wild perlemoen today stands on the brink of extinction. Johannesburg – The amount of South Africa’s abalone which is being illegally trafficked and smuggled to Hong Kong has been on the rise in recent years, a new report released on Friday has revealed.. Wildlife trade organisation, TRAFFIC said that the illegal harvesting of the country’s abalone was way above the legal quota. It would also decriminalize more than 15,000 jobs and allow overstretched law enforcement to focus on the organized criminals. The illegal trade exploded in the years after apartheid, when international sanctions against South Africa were lifted. Readying abalone for market “is more complex than making wine,” Piek said. Abalone poaching has cost the country 96 million individual abalones worth R10 billion between 2000 to 2016 - and as a result, it is one of the inshore fisheries that faces collapse in South Africa. Van der Heyden’s community believed that fishing was a traditional right, and they sought collective access and management of the resource rather than limited individual quotas. Dried illegal abalone brings about $70, and the divers, who take on most of the risk, make no more than about $10 of that. But, he said, such a structural change would mean the government would have to find more money and resources for marine conservation and crime prevention. Humans have used abalone as both a food source and decorative object for at least 75,000 years. At Abagold in South Africa, which is the largest abalone farm located on land and outside of China, dried abalone meat sells for $200 per pound, whereas illegal abalone meat sells for around $70 per pound. Faced with losing their livelihood and only source of income, many individuals ignored the restriction and continued harvesting abalone. South Africa has indefinitely suspended the fishing of abalone – commonly known as perlemoen – in its waters, effective from 1 February 2008. JOHANNESBURG — Poachers profiting off illegal abalone fishing are fueling a wave of violence in South Africa… Poachers often use a screwdriver to pry out an abalone's flesh—dubbed "white gold" because of its high value. The poachers shucked out the snails with screwdrivers, filled their bags with the valuable flesh, and dropped the empty shells into the sea. In many fishing communities “the criminal syndicates have gotten involved,” peddling drugs as currency—cheap methamphetamines and heroin from China—and luring impressionable kids from the poor coastal townships to dive illegally for abalone. Some are shipped live. If South Africa adopted this approach through partnerships with farms like Abagold, Piek said, the additional tax monies from this “blue economy” would amount to three times what the government now makes from confiscating and selling illegal abalone. And just last week two seizures of abalone estimated to be worth $2.8 million were made in the Cape Town area. In South Africa, annual permits are required to harvest abalone. As a result of this binge of illegal harvesting, South Africa’s stock of wild perlemoen today stands on the brink of extinction. “You won't easily find a lot of talk about the syndicates,” he said. "Why is the recreational fishing season for abalone getting shorter each year?" While abalone can be found in other countries, the South African species is the most sourced in the illegal market. “We can’t go on like this,” he said emphatically. Additionally, these criminal organizations recruit young individuals who are living in conditions of poverty and often pay in drugs, creating an addiction that can only be fulfilled by harvesting more abalone. Demand has soared, fueling a multibillion dollar global export industry—and a booming illegal trade from South Africa. “This inevitably places officials under huge pressure and can lead to a conflict of interest,” he said. The increasing pressure put on South African abalone by both legal and illegal harvesting had led to the banning of abalone harvesting and listing thereof on CITES in Appendix 3 and in the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act 10 of 2004 (NEMBA). Piek is the marketing manager of Abagold, an abalone farm that at any one time has three million of the shellfish in various stages of growth, from microscopic plankton to pin-size spat to adults whose shells are bigger than a man’s hand. In November 2016 two abalone kingpins, Akthar Naeem Cassim and Ernest Chen, were arrested near Beaufort West, in the Western Cape, with two tons of dried abalone in a truck. This species is easily recognized by the row of open holes, which are respiratory pores, located along its outer edge. “As soon as you start exposing the cops and do the right thing, they’re going to come after you,” he said. Abalones, or marine snails, are a much sought-after delicacy in Asia with demanding peaking around the Chinese New Year. By Amber Pariona on August 1 2017 in Environment. Abalone poaching is highly illegal, carrying severe penalties. Today, illegal abalone poaching has been taken over by criminal organizations. But, he conceded, “ranching is one solution—though we’d then need a plan to divide the coast up and dedicate specific areas for reseeding and ranching and other areas where wild abalone can thrive.”, He added: “We need to start looking at solutions no matter who or what you stand for. In fact, commercially farmed abalone meat is worth significantly more than illegally poached abalone. South Africa. First steps to tackling South Africa's abalone poaching Menu Close Members found 576 units shucked abalone during the operation. “It’s a very sensitive subject, very dangerous.”. Once abundant, the population of South African abalone Haliotis midae is declining at unprecedented levels. The abalone uses its muscular foot body to attach itself to rocky outcroppings in shallow parts of the ocean. During this period, South Africa was the largest source of dried abalone to Hong Kong among other African countries. Abalone are shellfish found in kelp forests in ocean waters along most continents and around the southern coast of South Africa. Why? “So we’re going to take the chance. The illegal trade of Abalone has exploded in recent years in South Africa. Zodidi Mhlana. The abalone resource is in crisis! Abalone clinging to the ocean floor, where they feed on kelp leaves, make an easy target for poachers, many of whom are beholden to criminal syndicates. Poaching is rife and corruption and drug dealing aggravate the problem further. In South Africa, abalone is more commonly known as perlemoen, a name that stems from the old Dutch word for the iridescent mother-of-pearl found inside the ear-shaped shell. A booming illegal trade in abalone—the world’s most valuable shellfish—is fueling a social and environmental crisis in South Africa. South Africa could follow the example set by Japan, a country that has increased its wild abalone population by introducing commercially raised young abalone (called spat) to the local coastal areas. We stopped beside one trough, the water in it bubbling for aeration, and Piek drew out a plastic white cone with thousands of tiny blue shells clinging to its underside. Here are the reasons why: Poaching or the illegal harvesting of abalone, is the biggest threat to the South African abalone resource. South Africa has one of the largest income inequalities and unemployment is extremely high. “We can’t have people dying to feed their family.”, “The poachers have got so brazen, they dive in broad daylight,” said Donovan van der Heyden, as we strolled along a wind-raked beach in a marine protected area near Hout Bay, abalone shells crunching underfoot. In De Villiers’s view it doesn’t make sense for the fisheries department to “be both the player and the referee,” as it is now, responsible for managing quotas and food security for fishermen with one hand and enforcing policing the harvesting of abalone with the other. Use of scuba diving to locate this species for harvest is prohibited. Over the last several years, however, the government has not issued any abalone harvesting permits in an attempt to help restore wild populations. While there are 56 species of abalone in the world, five of these are found in South Africa. The syndicates “have critical people in law enforcement all the way up.” He didn’t want to be more specific out of fear for his safety. Abalone, or perlemoen as we call it here in South Africa, is the name for a group of large, flat sea snails of the genus Haliotis.That may not sound remarkable, but abalone has come to champion the cause for marine conservation by showing the world the dangers of overfishing. Abalone is a highly prized delicacy and aphrodisiac in the Far East and fetches steep prices on the black market. With stocks of the shellfish declining in South Africa, legal quotas on harvesting it are strictly enforced. That led to even more poaching. This species, considered the most expensive shellfish in the world, is known locally as “white gold” due to its high value and pearl-like interior. This is likely due to the unique social-economic circumstances that still occur 25 years post-apartheid. When you say, ‘Goodbye baby,’ that’s maybe the last goodbye.” He pointed toward the cold turquoise waters of the Atlantic visible beyond a peak called the Sentinel. It’s the best way to avoid decimation of the wild abalone and “the complete collapse of the communities and for crime to take over.”. The scent of sea salt hung in the air as Werner Piek walked with me alongside hundreds of blue troughs that line the shore in Hermanus, just down the road from where I’d met De Villiers. These individuals, who had been harvesting abalone for generations, were excluded from the market. Around 75 million abalone have been illegally fished from the waters of South Africa since 2001, 10 times more than the legal quota. This illegal trade is worth approximately $440 million annually. In time they washed up on the beach. Trading abalone is now allowed by government regulation but requires export permits. Despite these successes, according to Josephs much illegal abalone goes undetected because some local police officers are corrupt, paid off by the criminal syndicates to turn a blind eye. It has an iridescent sheen that changes colors depending on the angle viewed. If the illegal poaching of abalone continues in South Africa, experts believe this species could become extinct in as little as 10 years time. These species are ecologically important and their algae grazing behavior cleans the area, allowing for colonization and population growth of other species. As we took our places in a café in Hermanus, an attractive seaside town about 80 miles east of Hout Bay, he told me in a low voice that a colleague had recently disappeared to a safe house in the mountains behind town after being told by an informant that a local abalone syndicate had placed a hit on him. A booming illegal trade in abalone—the world’s most valuable shellfish—is fueling a social and environmental crisis in South Africa. It’s quite a skill and art.”, According to Piek, illegal producers don’t have the technique, the recipe, the training, or the facilities to offer abalone of consistently high quality. The excessive poaching of abalone has colossal ecological, social, economic and political consequences for the country. All rights reserved. Abalone can be found in a variety of sizes, with the smallest species measuring .79 inches and the largest at 7.9 inches in length. If somebody can earn a few dollars for a day’s work, they’ll do it.”. Transporting unprocessed abalone shells out of New Zealand is illegal. The absence of abalone in the marine ecosystem would be detrimental to the habitat. Poachers threaten rare South African abalone 09:56. It is illegal to take abalone from the ocean. Dubbed “white gold” after the pearly underflesh of the snails, they’re relished in restaurants in China and elsewhere in Asia. In 2007, the South African government listed this species as endangered according to the regulations of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Convicted Poachers In South Africa Explain Why Heavy Policing Is Ineffective. Training local abalone harvesters to raise, produce, and process quality abalone meat would provide a number of secure employment opportunities. About two years ago, Josephs said, he decided to quit poaching abalone out of belief that the current rate of harvesting was unsustainable and that if he didn’t look for other options, he’d find himself and his family without a livelihood when stocks collapsed. A possible solution to South Africa’s abalone poaching crisis, Piek suggests, is to follow Japan’s lead and seed wild abalone populations with abalone spat raised on farms. When that didn’t happen, many either turned to poaching or stopped diving for abalone. Hundreds of abalone shells carpet a shallow pool near Hout Bay, Cape Town, discarded after poachers shucked out the snails living inside them. Demand for abalone meat has substantially increased over the last few years, creating an international export industry worth billions of dollars. JOHANNESBURG — Poachers profiting off illegal abalone fishing are fueling a wave of violence in South Africa. “When you start talking about their corruption, then you’re in danger because you’re impacting their pockets.”. This has helped the wild population numbers grow and allows the country to sustainably harvest 5,000 tons of abalone each year. They can see and know it’s coming from certain countries, factories, and species. This paper explores why the illicit abalone trade took off so dramatically in the 1990s and chronicles the attempts of various enforcement agencies to contain it. Abalone-diving has been a recreational activity for many years, but stocks are currently being threatened by illegal commercial harvesting. “It’s a result of our people not having jobs—they don’t have an alternative income. When the government refused to provide traditional abalone fishers with a larger quota based on a collective practice, the locals began to illegally collect this species. Three suspects aged 23, 28 and 41 were arrested on charges of diving in a restricted zone, the illegal possession of 535 units shucked abalone and possession of prohibited gear in Eluxolweni. A multi-disciplinary task team consisting of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), SA Police Service and other law enforcement players last weekend carried out a combined operation in the Gansbaai area of the Western Cape that netted several suspects and confiscated abalone with an estimated export value of more than R5 million. This designation required member countries to monitor abalone trade, however, it was removed from the list in 2010. If the illegal trade isn’t shut down soon, De Villiers said, South Africa’s wild abalone will become critically endangered. The inside of the shell is characterized by a thick layer of nacre, also known as mother-of-pearl. A report by TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring network, found that 96 million of the shellfish have been poached in South Africa’s waters since 2000.. The abalone take seven years to reach maturity and are then harvested, processed, and packaged for export in different forms: dried, canned, and frozen. Van der Heyden told me he gave up abalone poaching about 12 years ago because, he said, he wanted to “lead by example” and do what he could to help fight for his community’s access to the fisheries. Abagold is the world’s largest land-based abalone farm outside China, employing some 400 people from the local community and exporting around 500 tons of “premium” abalone a year. According to nonprofits dedicated to preventing illegal trade of wildlife, approximately 3,477 tons of abalone were illegally removed from the water in 2015. Why? In China, it is served to celebrate special occasions or honour guests. As we spoke, one of his kids dashed between us and leaped onto the couch, followed by the dog. This article takes a closer look at the effects of illegal abalone poaching in South Africa specifically. South African Plants – What Kind of Plants Live in South Africa? New fishing policies were applied to several sectors except the local traditional and artisanal fishers. The legal abalone harvest for the same year was only 105 tons. According to De Villiers, multinational criminal syndicates not only pay off divers, carriers, and police but also government officials to ease the path of abalone from South African kelp beds to Asian markets. During the early 2000s demand for abalone in Hong Kong exploded, and in 2007 the government, fearing that wild populations had crashed from over-harvesting, drastically reduced the allowable catch, from 800 tons a year to 80. In fact, commercially farmed abalone meat is worth significantly more than illegally poached abalone. All maps, graphics, flags, photos and original descriptions © 2020 worldatlas.com. One of the most expensive varieties of abalone occurs in South Africa, where it has been subject since the 1990s to relentless poaching. But according to van der Heyden, it’s worse than ever now. It’s 50-50. The large mollusks play an essential “engineering” role by grazing on plants and keeping kelp forests, which support many other species, in good condition. The majority of this illegally poached meat is sold in Asian countries, where it is considered a delicacy. The most desired abalone species is the Haliotis midae, which is the largest of its kind and found only along the coasts of South Africa. If we all work together, then maybe we can solve this problem.”, Poaching for Abalone, Africa’s ‘White Gold,' Reaches Fever Pitch, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2017/02/wildlife-watch-abalone-poaching-south-africa.html. Researchers believe the poaching industry first began during the post-Apartheid era of the 1990’s. Inside of its shell is the living organism. The local police force, known for high levels of corruption, accepts bribes from these syndicates to overlook the illegal fishing. “This one was probably 25 years old,” he said. Illegal trade in the marine mollusks extends across sub-Saharan Africa. Abalone is dried in clandestine cookhouses in South Africa before being sent to Hong Kong, usually via neighbouring African countries with laxer borders and no laws for policing the abalone … Abagold’s dried abalone, for example, sells for just over $200 per pound. The problem with sprinkling farmed abalone into the ocean to boost wild stocks, he said, is that “you create a genetic bottleneck—a lack of diversity in the wild gene pool.” Wild abalone then risk collapse from disease or changes in the environment. “It’s really chaotic. While there are 56 species of abalone in the world, five of these are found in South Africa. He went on to paint a picture of how this abalone graveyard must have come to be: One night a group of divers swam into the kelp forest and pried the barnacle-coated abalone off the rocks as they fed on the kelp fronds swaying in the swells. “These are the abalone spat,” he said. Numbers of abalone are now at critically low levels because of over-exploitation.

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