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Court rules against abalone fishing

by BuaNews Online
on 25 Mar 2008
BuaNews Online
BuaNews Online

The Cape Town High Court has ruled against the South African Abalone Industry Association who had sought to overturn government's decision to suspend fishing in the commercial abalone industry.

Last year the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism announced its plans to suspend wild abalone (also known as Perlemoen) commercial fishing to ensure the survival of the species by allowing stocks to recover.

While fishing was to be suspended from November, Cabinet supported the recommendation to allow the industry to continue through December and January.

The ban took effect from 1 February 2008.

Judge Bozalek in handing down his verdict said that the existence of an emergency had been proven and that he was satisfied that the decision-making process was thorough, sequential and regular.

The respondents were ordered to pay the minister's legal costs.

Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk, in welcoming the courts decision, said the closure of the abalone fishery was the right thing to do as the resource was in a crisis.

"We remain of the view that the abalone resource is in a crisis due to ecological changes and poaching."

He reiterated that it had been difficult to decide to suspend fishing in any because it would impact on the livelihoods of many people and families in the industry.

"We are unfortunately at a point where the commercial harvesting of wild abalone can no longer be justified because the stock has declined to such an extent that the resource is threatened with commercial extinction," he said.

The closure of the fishery, he said must be seen against the background of the consideration that future generations will be able to know and enjoy this resource.

"The closure of the fishery is considered as the only viable option at this stage to provide an opportunity to prevent a total commercial collapse of this highly valued resource," he said.

When the department announced its decision to ban abalone fishing the there were 262 individual divers and 40 legal entities in the form of close corporations holding fishing rights. This accounted for 800 jobs.

Over the past 10 years, the total allowable catch for abalone has been reduced annually from 615 tons in 1995 to a record low of 125 tons for the 2006/2007 season and an all time emergency low of 75 tons for 2007/2008.

In 2003, a moratorium on the recreational harvesting of abalone was implemented due to the rapid decline of the resource.

Now persons wishing to undertake activities, apart from abalone diving and fishing, can apply for a permit to engage in diving or be in possession of prohibited gear in the listed areas.

Such activities include scientific research, white shark-cage diving, commercial kelp harvesting, sea ranching, salvage operations, maintenance of legal underwater infrastructure or any other activity authorised in terms of legislation. - BuaNews

Compiled by the Government Communication and Information System


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