Abalone to the value of R5-million was retrieved by the South African Police Service in a high speed chase on Wednesday. According to SAPS, a tip was received on the illegal transportation of the abalone to Gordon’s bay harbour.
Once recovered, over 8 330 shelled abalone were found in the vehicle after being illegally fished. With abalone numbers reaching levels of extinction and poaching being tightly monitored, the recovery was a fruitful win for the national conservation of the oceanic creature. Police say, once abalone is seized it must be handed over to the Department of Fisheries for storage and it is heavily guarded.
Police are still looking for the suspect. “No one has been arrested yet and the suspect fled the scene after he realised he had been spotted,” police spokesperson Sergeant Noloyisa Rwexana said.
Protect our ‘white gold’
In a documentary produced by Wild Culture Club, the endemic ‘perlemoen’ is referred to as South Africa’s ‘white gold’ due to its high export value. Abalone is no mere slimy snail and has been placed on the red list by WWF Sassi, indicating that the species is not to be purchased or hand picked. South Africa is home to five different types of abalone and three out of these five are considered to be a species of concern on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Although abalone is found across the coasts of New Zealand, North America and Australia, South African is considered to have the most favourable type of abalone for export trade with China. It is considered a local delicacy in China and is in high demand. The outer shell of the abalone is used in jewellery design and ornaments.
Humans are the most imminent threat to the abalone population and efforts of conservation have been put in place to grow the species. The Wild Coast abalone farm is located along the Eastern Cape and has been a crucial part of farming abalone and reintroducing them into their natural habitat. According to the Two Oceans Aquarium, abalone take up to seven years to mature and reach the apt age for reproduction – with the poaching of young abalone, it limits the species ability to reproduce and grow in numbers.