South Africa will lift on Friday its nearly three-year-old ban on commercial abalone fishing, a move that a wildlife group says will send the highly valued and highly poached species spiraling toward extinction.
Known in South African as perlemoen, abalone (specifically the Haliotis midae
species) has long been a cash cow for the nation’s fishermen, with thousands of tons taken from coastal waters every year. Although there is a legal, regulated abalone industry in South Africa, much of that catch has been illegal; it is caught by unlicensed poachers and smuggled to Asia where abalone is valued as a purported aphrodisiac
. Organized crime syndicates, primarily Chinese triad gangs, have been the major players in this field. The Triads often pay for the perlemoen with methamphetamine
, which in turn has fueled an increase in violent crime throughout South Africa. In 2006 South African authorities confiscated more than one million perlemoen
from smugglers (representing just a portion of the total amount believed to have been poached).