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21 September 2016

In a briefing to the Standing Committee on Economic Opportunities, Tourism and Agriculture in the Western Cape Provincial Parliament, community stakeholders conveyed a devastating story about abalone poaching’s effect on our local coastal communities.

Gangsters attracted by poaching are making their way into the community and young people are being coerced into drug abuse and prostitution. Poachers are no longer paid in cash but in drugs.

The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) was also at the briefing, and it was clear that while there is some success in prosecuting some of the racketeers, safety authorities are nowhere near to alleviating the problem.

Unfortunately the Directorate of Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) cancelled their briefing at the very last minute. It is clear that the majority of the challenges and solutions lie under the ambit of DAFF. In my capacity as Standing Committee Chairperson on Economic Opportunities, Tourism and Agriculture, I will give DAFF a second opportunity to present to the committee on Wednesday 28 September at 08h30.I will also invite The SA Revenue Service’s (SARS) National Special Investigation Unit and South African Police Services (SAPS) Western Cape, because it became clear in the committee that there is a lack of clarity on who the lead agent tackling abalone poaching should be.

Today’s failure from DAFF to meet with the community stakeholders like the Community against Abalone Poaching and Abagold indicates that they are not taking the issue seriously enough. We need to find sustainable solutions to the problem, and if DAFF refuse to engage in a serious way, we need to consider our legal options.

Some of the solutions presented today include:

– Investigating the opportunity to legalise sustainable harvesting of Abalone.

– Give local communities back their fishing rights.

– Creating economic opportunities for the communities surrounding the small boat harbours.

Our coastal communities are now living in fear and destitution, we need to work together to turn the situation around and create new opportunities and bring back hope.

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