Serge Raemaekers, a University of Cape Town academic and researcher said the startling figures required an all-encompassing action from civil society, communities and government to address the challenge of poaching in the country’s marine economy.
Most poachers have expressed interest in abalone and lobster partly due to their demand in Hong Kong, China and other Asian economies.
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Abalone is used for food while its shells are used as decorative items and as a source of pearls for jewellery while lobsters are considered economically important and one of the most profitable commodities in the coastal areas they populate.
According to the activists working in the World Wide Fund (WWF), the Nedbank Green Trust initiatives, both fishes (abalone and lobster) were falling victim to illegal and unregulated forms of fishing which has seen the two species depleting immensely.
Raemaekers said about 3,000 tonnes of the poached fish were a conservative estimate of how much was being smuggled illegally calling for a more robust policing intervention.
“There is need for preservation and conservation, we are trying to attack the problem from all fronts but there is need for concerted efforts and multi-sector management of the ocean economy,” he said.
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Mike Tenet from Kogelberg Marine Working Group (KMWG) said a cursory look at the trends from 2000 showed a sharp decline and when the sea watch interventions were not there a rise in poaching was experienced.
“We have been trying to address marine crime for over 30 years and we have registered some success,” said Tenet.
He added that the KMWG had about 300 people who were helping in the programme of fighting marine crime.
John Duncan, a senior manager for Marine at WWF South Africa said about 0.4 per cent of the country’s ocean area was protected urging stakeholders to double efforts to about 10 per cent in the near future.
He also warned of the threat in ocean fisheries by oil and gas mining.
“We need to have an equitable and sustainable plan as a country,” he said.
Duncan said there was a need to make decisions on climate change and inform policies on facts.
The WWF Nedbank Green Trust has been working to combat poaching and promoting small scale fishers with access to markets at the best available offers.
Maseda Ratshikuni, head of Cause Marketing at Nedbank said a critical part of management involved rigorous engagement and participation from local communities and businesses.
“In this regard, WWF-Nedbank Green Trust’s Kogelberg marine project, along the Southern Cape is succeeding by combining communities with conservation,” he said.
“Over the past years, the project has made great progress in the enhancement of sustainable fishing in South Africa with the funding of small-scale fisheries.”