Cape Town - The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has thrown its weight behind a probe by the Hawks, saying it was determined to take a stand against corruption.
This followed the arrest of nine Fisheries’ control officers who are based mainly in the Overberg region.
The department said it would continue to support the police in their endeavour to investigate allegations of corruption among its officers.
The department’s acting chief director for monitoring, control and surveillance Thembalethu Vico said: “This forms part of the department’s efforts to enhance discipline and integrity among its workforce by ensuring that reported corruption is dealt with through the relevant state systems.”
Vico said illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing - which abalone poaching is classified under - is a global challenge that threatens world food security and ecosystems, and South Africa is not exempted.
The department galvanised other law-enforcement agencies through its Operation Phakisa Oceans Economy initiative to deal with IUU fishing.
He said the department understood there is a need for organised international communities to work together to combat IUU fishing.
“As a result, the department has ensured that South Africa ratifies the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation: Port State Measure Agreement to curb IUU fishing. The department also plays an integral role in enhancing collaboration through the relevant structures of SADC and Interpol to curb IUU fishing in the region,” said Vico.
South African Deep-Sea Trawling Industry Association secretary Johann Augustyn said: “We welcome any arrests related to corruption. We are concerned about the threatened resources and if thorough investigations lead to arrests, we are very happy about it.
“We understand there might be an issue when we offload our catches at Gansbaai This affects us directly.
“When we offload (catches) there has to be an inspector to oversee it.
“And if they don’t have the capacity we sit with one of two contraventions which is to offload without an inspector present or to dump the fish,” Augustyn said.