Februray 20, 2011

Chinese nationals sentenced for involvement in abalone poaching

South Africa has become a target for syndicates wanting to plunder its wild abalone resources due to the collapse of most abalone fisheries in the world, according to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Additionally, poachers often worked in association with illegal drug dealers and other elements of organised crime, the department said. Its comments follow the sentencing of three Chinese nationals for involvement in a syndicate poaching abalone in the Western Cape. The department said the decline in global wild abalone numbers had been made worse by the dramatic drop in many wild fish stocks, as poachers targeted abalone once fish stocks had been depleted. Consequently South Africas wild abalone resources were the focus of syndicates.

The court sentenced three Chinese nationals to direct imprisonment after they were found guilty of the illegal possession of abalone. Two were each sentenced to 30 months’ imprisonment, and the third person was given a 36-month sentence. They will serve their sentences in a South African prison.

"In the fight against the plundering of our natural resources and the illegal activities linked to it, it often seems that we are hit by freak waves," Hein Wyngaard, acting department director of communications for fisheries, said. The sentencing of the three criminals was an indication that the war against poaching was "winnable", he added. "What is required, though, is the continuous co-operation between the departments, law enforcement agencies, the courts and, particularly our local communities, since poaching ultimately affects the total allowable catch that should benefit our legal stakeholders."
Mr Wyngaard said it was the first time that a sentence of this nature had been imposed on foreign nationals for abalone-related crimes, thus indicating the progress being made to restrict this criminal activity. According to the department, the men were arrested in Cape Town on July in 2010 during a joint operation involving the department’s monitoring, control and surveillance unit and the South African Police Service’s organised crime unit.

During the operation, at least 14.140 units of dried abalone and 16.976 units of processed abalone were seized at premises in Table View and Parklands. A further 1093 units of wet abalone were also seized. (IAS)

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