Over the past 17 years, poachers have stripped South African coastal waters of at least 96-million abalone, according to a new report released today by TRAFFIC, the international wildlife trade monitoring network.
Efforts to curb the illegal trade have roundly failed. Once abundant, the population of South African abalone (Haliotis midae), a sea molusc, is declining at unprecedented levels.
On average two thousand tonnes of abalone are bagged annually by poachers – 20 times the legal take – in an illicit industry estimated to be worth at least US$60million a year. Abalone is prized as a delicacy in parts of Asia, notably China.
Driven by sophisticated transnational criminal networks and local gangs, the illegal abalone trade has been fuelled by deeply entrenched socio-economic disparities in the Western Cape, bitterly contested fishing quotas, drugs, and gang violence.
Despite the very real threat that South African abalone could go extinct if poaching levels continue unabated, it is not currently listed on CITES and beyond South Africa the trade in Haliotis midae remains unregulated. That lack of regulation means that once abalone shipments have been smuggled out of South Africa to neighbouring African countries, they can easily be laundered without fear of law enforcement action.Read the full report and watch the documentary here: https://www.traffic.org/publications/reports/empty-shells/