16 May 2005

Poachers cough up R6 million in fines, confiscations

The Overstrand's Marines anti-poaching project, which cost R1.8 million to run, garnered R5.8 million in fines and in confiscated perlemoen and lobster in the past financial year.

And they have calculated that the value of perlemoen they were able to keep in the sea, out of the hands of poachers, was over R6 million.

Craig Spencer, head of Overstrand Municipality's nature conservation department, which manages the project, said as the motto of the marines was "keep it in the sea", a large part of their effort was concentrated on patrols and visual policing to keep poachers out of the water.

If they focused only on arresting poachers after they had taken their illegal catch from the sea, they would not be protecting the marine resource from over-exploitation.

"We've had a good year, and the statistics from May last year to March this year spell this out," Spencer said.

He said the investment of R1.8 million into the Marines project was small in relation to the value of marine resources and fines that were returned to the Marine Living Resources Fund.

"Also, the value of marine products that remain in the sea for legitimate harvest and re-seeding of the resources far outweighs the small investment by the authorities," said Spencer.

In Gansbaai the team of eight marines had prevented 1 670 divers from entering the sea. Spencer said each poacher took an average of about 70 perlemoen, and this meant that by keeping these divers out of the sea, they had kept 116 900 perlemoen from being stolen.

"Obviously, once the divers have been escorted out of the sea, there is no guarantee that they will not attempt to dive again," Spencer said.

Since the start of the project, the marines had seized 77 136 poached perlemoen and made 340 arrests.

The marines have an operations room in Hermanus harbour which is staffed 24 hours a day throughout the week where they receive tip-offs from the public about illegal activities.

The Marines is a joint anti-poaching initiative by the Overstrand Municipality, Marine and Coastal Management (MCM) the police and a local non-governmental organisation, Seawatch.

It is funded by MCM and the municipality, and now the South African branch of the World Wide Fund for Nature has donated R450 000 to the project over the next three years.

Spencer said the Marines project, which had started as a pilot project in the Hangklip-Hermanus area, had also expanded to Gansbaai since April last year.

Source: www.capetimes.co.za


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