CAPE TOWN, April 5 (Xinhua) — South Africa on Friday raised the quota for abalone fishing as a fresh bid to combat illegal poaching that seriously threatens the endangered species.
The decision, announced by Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Senzeni Zokwana, set aside the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) of 50.5 tonnes of abalone for the 2018/2019 fishing season, previously made public by his ministry.
The minister set the new quota at 96 tonnes for the 2018/2019 fishing season, same as that of the previous fishing season.
Zokwana said that in making the decision, the government took into consideration the need for his ministry to take the lead in fighting poaching, given the fact that TAC reduction may result in more poaching.
South Africa’s abalone commercial rights holders and abalone zonal representatives have lodged an appeal against the TAC which they say was not based in any scientific and biological surveys.
Zokwana said he acknowledged that the abalone sector needs a complete overhaul of this fishery management in the form of meaningful interventions from the government in partnership with the South African public.
The minister said there is still the need for a comprehensive and impactful approach to better manage the abalone sector which is under threat but is very important for the livelihood of fishing communities, the economy and the country at large.
“As a listening government, we have and continue to engage with various role players and interested parties in a number of platforms where engagements have been about the best possible way for addressing issues affecting the abalone sector,” he said.
Zokwana also emphasized the need to address the issue of poaching through a well informed and realistic strategy, and by involving various interested and affected parties such as the abalone divers, small-scale fishers, abalone aquaculture farms and the public.
Abalone, endemic to the shores of South Africa, is one of the most sought-after delicacies in some countries. Since the 1990s, international trafficking in abalone has skyrocketed, involving sophisticated syndicates which make huge profits from illegal poaching.
Since 1994 the government has attempted to transform the fishing industry to make it more inclusive.
However, it has failed to give small-scale fishers the number and size of fishing rights they were expecting, leading to an explosion of what was termed “protest fishing,” where large groups of disgruntled fishers would fish illegally.