FREE REIGN: Poachers on Overberg coastline

Officials policing the country’s coastline say they are fighting a losing battle against poachers.

This after several big abalone busts were made in the Cape last week, in which more than 17 000 abalone were confiscated.

And while people accuse corrupt Department of Fisheries and Forestry officials of taking a cut from the poachers to allow them to go ahead with their criminal activities, other DAFF officials say their hands are tied.

“We don’t have a boat so we can’t take them out of the water. And they are so clever they come out in places we can’t reach with our vehicles,” says one official.

They say there are only five officers per shift who have to deal with hundreds of poachers along a huge stretch of coastline.

“How can a few of us deal with more than 80 poachers at any given time?” asks another miserable official.

Last Tuesday, gatvol residents of Kleinbaai, near Gansbaai, took photos of about 50 poachers in wetsuits, stealing perly.

A resident says the problem grows worse every day as more poachers flock to the area, due to the lack of visible policing.

Another law enforcer adds that poaching also causes social problems, such as kids leaving school to poach because they are dazzled by the bling lifestyles of poachers.

“That way some become addicted to drugs, then girls end up selling their bodies and men steal to afford the next fix,” he explains.

The officers, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of victimisation, called on the DAFF and government to give them more resources, “or risk having marine sources go extinct at the hands of ruthless poachers”.

Last Tuesday, cops confiscated 12 492 abalone in Zwelihle, outside Hermanus, after investigating a suspicious stationary vehicle.

Police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel André Traut says the abalone had an estimated value of R1.3 million.

In Caledon, cops discovered three bags filled with more then 2 600 perly in a Nissan Livina.

A bakkie and diving equipment were confiscated after DAFF officials came across poachers diving near Gansbaai on Sunday.

Closer to Cape Town, more than 4 500 perly worth R500 000 was found at a drying facility on a smallholding in Joostenbergvlakte on Sunday.

No arrests were made in any of these incidents.

DAFF spokesperson Palesa Mokomele says the Overberg coastline is the biggest poaching hotspot in the country.

They do have one boat at their disposal, but a lack of resources makes their job difficult.

“Even a small part of abalone poached is a big loss to the Department,” she says.