13 January 2006

South Africa: Navy divers apprehend abalone poachers

Navy divers hauled 120 suspected perlemoen (abalone) poachers from the sea between Cape Recife and Sardinia Bay near Port Elizabeth on Tuesday.

"This was part of our highly visible policing. Whenever divers wanted to go into the sea, we sent out navy divers with them," environmental affairs department spokesperson Abeeda Mugjenkar said on Wednesday.

The removal of suspects from the water followed the arrest last week of twelve people caught poaching.

On Tuesday, the navy divers found 176 shucked perlemoen stashed in the water.

"Our primary goal is to make sure that the abalone does not get out of the water," Mugjenkar said.

Visible policing
According to Mugjenkar, poaching strategies were changing. Poachers were diving closer to shore rather than using rubber ducks to dive from further out to sea.

The department's assistant director of environmental protection, Keith Govender, said the department was having a "huge success rate" with their visible policing in the Port Elizabeth area.

The protection units had been mandated to restrict poaching, and that was why the 120 suspected poachers were evicted from the water.

"We cannot arrest them when we can't find anything on them," he said.

However, Govender said he knew that poachers were hiding shucked perlemoen on the sea bed and returning to retrieve them when "nobody was around".

"We are frustrating them. It is good. We will win the battle to protect our marine resources," he said.

Govender said the "red and white ships you see around PE" were part of the department's environmental strategy.

Four poachers were arrested on Friday at Willows and Schoenmakerskop, and 391 shucked perlemoen were confiscated. On Thursday, eight poachers were arrested at Cape Recife and 729 shucked perlemoen were confiscated.

Smal said there were "a lot of local groups here poaching".

They liked to take the perlemoen out of their shells because that made them easier to transport.

"They weigh less shucked," he said.

Smal said the poachers had all appeared in court.

Source: www.news24.com/News24/South_Africa/News


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