Illegal poaching on the rise
Poaching in the Overstrand especially in Onrus, Sievers Point, Kleinmond and Betty’s Bay has increased exponentially over the last two months.
On 26 July a resident of Betty’s Bay had an altercation with the driver of a bakkie who had apparently dropped off poachers, in which gunshots were fired at the driver.
The man was charged with attempted murder and appeared briefly in the Caledon Magistrates’ Court. The charge was temporarily withdrawn pending a report from ballistic experts.
Officials from the Fisheries Management Branch of the Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) Unit of the Department of Environmental Affairs, Forestry and Fisheries (Deff) confiscated 7 657 units of abalone originating from the Overberg at approximately 22:00 on Sunday 2 August.
Fanie Krige, Ward 10 councillor, says he is extremely concerned about the increasing scale of marine resource poaching in the Overberg.
“Not only does this deprive our local fishermen of economic opportunity, but there is also a clear link with other criminal activities and the establishment of illegal housing structures,” he said. “Frustration among residents is on the rise, but I must warn people against taking matters into their own hands. We are dealing with organised crime, and people who are not trained and equipped can get hurt in confrontations.”
Zolile Nqayi, Director of Communication Services at Deff, says the department conducts daily inspections to curb the rise of poaching, especially in Kleinmond and Betty’s Bay. It also does coastal patrols, sea patrols, operations and investigations with its partners and role-players such as the Law Enforcement Task Team of Overstrand Municipality, Saps and CapeNature.
Errol van Staden, Chairperson of Hermanus Public Protection (HPP), says poaching is totally out of hand in Hermanus, especially Onrus. “These poachers are now poaching in broad daylight,” he says, “and nobody is doing anything about it. It is Deff’s responsibility to follow-up on these cases, but it seems nothing is happening. We are now at a point where we decided to escalate the matter to the Minister of Environmental Affairs.”
The poachers entering the water along our coast are just the footmen, and are part of a very large organised syndicate.
Jean Orban, Ward 13 councillor, believes there are other reasons at play in turning normal fisherman into poachers. He says: “I believe this is a result of our national government, which has taken so many quotas away from local people who need it and rely on that income, giving it to a connected few.
“This has forced many good people into becoming criminals just to put food on their tables. This is not fair. The poachers entering the water along our coast are just the footmen, and are part of a very large organised syndicate.”
Why the spike in poaching?
Nqayi attributes the spike in poaching to the Level 3 lockdown. “The lockdown, as well as continuous bad weather during Lockdown Levels 5 and 4 prevented poachers from going to sea,” he said. “Level 3 has less stringent regulations, thus causing the number of poaching incidents to rise.
“The effects of lockdown in the Overberg over the past few months may have resulted in a high demand for abalone and West Coast rock lobster in the Far East.”
Nqayi says, in addition to Deff’s proactive approach, the department has been successful in implementing the reactive measures that are intended to deal with the transporters, processors, and exporters of poached marine resources.
“These organised illegal activities are followed-up in collaboration with the Directorate of Prioritised Criminal Investigations (DPCI),” he said, “and are mainly aimed at the syndicates operating in these sectors. The aim is to increase these operations in the Betty’s Bay and Kleinmond areas in the short to medium term.”
Ryan Solomons, ’n geliefde ambulansman in Franschhoek, is Saterdagnag in ’n tragiese botsing in Belhar dood.