The Minister of Fisheries has admitted in Parliament that a staggering 590 tons of abalone was confiscated by the department of fisheries during the 2010/2011 financial year. While this admission is jaw-dropping, what is even more alarming is her further confirmation that during the same financial period, the department is recorded to have earned R11,3 million from the sale of confiscated abalone.
590 tons of abalone is conservatively valued at R185 million (@R350/kg). This valuation is however based on what right holders can earn from the sale of abalone to South African marketers who then market the product internationally for substantially higher amounts. All confiscated abalone is sold directly to buyers in Hong Kong and China and so the department should be earning substantially higher amounts than what quota holders would ordinarily earn.
The Minister's response of course raises two extremely concerning issues. The first is that the 590 ton figure is 4-times the legal quota allocated to the legal commercial abalone fishery. This places the department firmly as a serious commercial competitor to the legal commercial abalone fishery. Furthermore, based on the department's own compliance data, only some 10% of all poached abalone is confiscated. This will then mean that South Africa is actually losing anything up to 5000 tons of abalone each year to poachers.
The second concern is the significant discrepancy between the amount of abalone confiscated (590 tons) and the amount of income earned (R11,3 million), which is completely inexplicable. Could the department have sold 590 tons of abalone at R18/kg?
Feike, together with the abalone industry, has been repeatedly requesting information pertaining to the quantum of abalone confiscated, the quanta sold each year and for what amounts. Needless to say, the department has simply refused to make this information available despite it being in the public interest to know how much abalone is being confiscated, who is buying the abalone and at what prices.
Perhaps the Minister's response to Parliament could explain the motive behind her department's refusal to make the information available to the public.