By John Yeld
Despite a 40 percent increase in anti-poaching efforts by the authorities in recent years, abalone (perlemoen) poaching continues to grow. And of particular concern is that some 60 percent of poached abalone is below reproductive age and levels of poaching are “far higher” than the total estimated sustainable catch from this resource, parliament’s portfolio committee on agriculture, forestry and fisheries has been told.
At a briefing last week on the status of South Africa’s marine fisheries by the national Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the committee was told that the abalone resource had suffered “a serious decline despite the best efforts at management”.
These efforts included the closure of the recreational fishery, “drastic” reductions in TACs (total allowable catches, or quotas), the introduction of the so-called “Turf” system whereby local coastal communities are given quotas and are expected in return to protect local abalone stocks, and even the closure of the commercial abalone fishery in 2008, although it was conditionally re-opened in 2010.
Although abalone numbers continued to drop because of poaching, projections indicated that recovery was possible if poaching could be reduced. “The recovery plan includes gradual increases in TACs if poaching can be reduced by 15 percent a year.”
The briefing document also revealed that the West Coast rock lobster (kreef) resource was currently “severely depleted”, with the catch having declined from a high of more than 18 000 tons in the 1950s to just over 2 000 tons now, for various reasons.
“Indications are that the resource is responding (to a recovery plan) but it is still too early to say with certainty.” More....