As a result of this binge of illegal harvesting, South Africa's stock of wild perlemoen today stands on the brink of extinction. Corruption has become an obstacle in effectively addressing wildlife crimes in many countries, including South Africa, more especially with its illegal abalone … Abalone-diving has been a recreational activity for many years, but stocks are currently being threatened by illegal commercial harvesting. That led to even more poaching. 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. 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 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. Abalones, or marine snails, are a much sought-after delicacy in Asia with demanding peaking around the Chinese New Year. 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). 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. The illegal trade exploded in the years after apartheid, when international sanctions against South Africa were lifted. While abalone can be found in other countries, the South African species is the most sourced in the illegal market. The legal abalone harvest for the same year was only 105 tons. The largest abalone in South Africa, Haliotis midae, can be found along about two-thirds of the country’s coastline. While there are 56 species of abalone in the world, five of these are found in South Africa. When that didn’t happen, many either turned to poaching or stopped diving for abalone. ... abalone, or cycads (ancient ... [illegal hunting of rhino] is just like when you are hunting for bushmeat. 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. “These are the abalone spat,” he said. When asked about corruption in its Western Cape branch, the South African Police’s media representative responded that “corruption by SAPS members are very high on our priority list and every endeavour is made to apprehend and discharge corrupt police officials.” National Geographic also reached out to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries but had received no response by the time of publication. In 2013 I conducted an exploratory analysis of abalone poaching in a South African national park to see whether the “routine activities theory” might be useful in tackling the problem. If the illegal poaching of abalone continues in South Africa, experts believe this species could become extinct in as little as 10 years time. It was changes put in place during the early 1990s by South Africa’s post-apartheid government that pushed small-scale abalone fishermen like him into poaching. The excessive poaching of abalone has colossal ecological, social, economic and political consequences for the country. As we spoke, one of his kids dashed between us and leaped onto the couch, followed by the dog. In my lifetime I can say I know more than 200 lost to the sea. “As soon as you start exposing the cops and do the right thing, they’re going to come after you,” he said. 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. One of the greatest instances of illegal abalone poaching in the world occurs in South Africa. 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. By Amber Pariona on August 1 2017 in Environment. While there are 56 species of abalone in the world, five of these are found in South Africa. The number of abalone species is not known exactly, although it has been estimated at somewhere between 30 and 130. Poachers often use a screwdriver to pry out an abalone's flesh—dubbed "white gold" because of its high value. What would make more sense, he said, would be to divide responsibilities among different government agencies: one to issue quotas based on sound science, another to manage abalone conservation, and one—the country’s priority crime unit, known as the HAWKS—to focus on organized crime. 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. 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. Trading abalone is now allowed by government regulation but requires export permits. A hungry child can’t learn in school.”. It has an iridescent sheen that changes colors depending on the angle viewed. Abalone are shellfish found in kelp forests in ocean waters along most continents and around the southern coast of South Africa. 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. The abalone resource is in crisis! Abalone poaching is highly illegal, carrying severe penalties. In fact, commercially farmed abalone meat is worth significantly more than illegally poached abalone. In fact, commercially farmed abalone meat is worth significantly more than illegally poached abalone. Comparative production figures in 2015 of these three countries are 50 000 (China), 10 000 (Korea) and 1 450 (South Africa). 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. It’s no man’s dream to be an abalone poacher, said Angelo Josephs, as we sat inside his tiny township shack perched on the mountainside above Hout Bay, a suburb of Cape Town. 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. Illegal to take abalone. This illegal trade is worth approximately $440 million annually. By doing this, Japanese producers sustainably harvest more than 5,000 tons of abalone a year. The majority of this illegally poached meat is sold in Asian countries, where it is considered a delicacy. Efforts to curb the illegal trade have roundly failed. Chinese crime syndicates working with local South African gangs have caused stocks of abalone to be depleted at a record rate. But if it’s shut down without a plan to help the thousands of local fishermen who would lose their livelihoods, that could lead to a “massive social problem” when these people “turn to other forms of crime to get by.”. Instead, investing in commercial abalone farms may provide a safer and more environmentally sustainable economic opportunity for thousands of individuals. 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. The poachers shucked out the snails with screwdrivers, filled their bags with the valuable flesh, and dropped the empty shells into the sea. These species are ecologically important and their algae grazing behavior cleans the area, allowing for colonization and population growth of other species. The abalone market is dominated by China and Korea, followed by South Africa, which is the third largest abalone producer in the world. In China, it is served to celebrate special occasions or honour guests. Breaking the cycle of illegal abalone poaching in South Africa is going to be tough, but not impossible. These guys earn money like it’s crazy, easy money—it’s flashy cars and motorbikes and girls and drugs.”. 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. 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 has a large, soft body, known as a foot, that is anchored to the shell by the columellar muscle. They also serve as a food source for many larger marine animals. “You won't easily find a lot of talk about the syndicates,” he said. All maps, graphics, flags, photos and original descriptions © 2020 worldatlas.com. Once abundant, the population of South African abalone Haliotis midae is declining at unprecedented levels. Demand for abalone in Asia is increasingly being met through illegal harvesting run by criminal gangs threatening the survival of the marine mollusk in South Africa, a report has said. As a result the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, which sets annual quotas, says that “only an appreciable reduction in removals can prevent a complete collapse [in the wild] within about a decade.”.
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