DAFF reported that a group of armed, masked men had overpowered the facility’s security personnel and made off with an undisclosed number of bags of this expensive shellfish.
DAFF spokesperson Bomikazi Molapo said that the stolen abalone had been confiscated during operations aimed at curbing illegal abalone fishing in the Western Cape. Legislation would have allowed DAFF to sell the confiscated abalone and to use the proceeds to fund further operations against the illegal fishing of and trade in abalone.
“Abalone is one of the important species that form part of our ocean’s economy. It is important that we protect it from illegal fishing. Our efforts to do so will not be derailed by thugs who want to steal resources meant for the development of our people and economy,” said Zokwana in a statement.
In August 2014, the Institute for Security Studies published a paper by Khalil Goga, entitled ‘The illegal abalone trade in the Western Cape’.
It said that fresh abalone currently traded for over R1 000/kg and dried abalone for over R3 000/kg in SA. Once exported to Asia, dried abalone could be sold for R6 000/kg to R12 000/kg.
Molapo said Zokwana was reviewing DAFF’s policy of confiscating, storing and then selling abalone because this process was open to potential abuse by state officials. Meanwhile, DAFF’s acting deputy director-general of fisheries, Siphokazi Ndudane, said the SAPS and the Hawks were both investigating the theft.
She encouraged the general public to provide authorities with information that would enable the arrests of the perpetrators.