Science, Tech & Environment

Poaching abalone in South Africa

This man looks out to the ocean where for 30 years he's made an honest living diving for abalone. But this month the South African government closed down the business and he faces the agonizing decision over whether he'll have to become a poacher. He worries he has no other alternative to make a living. For him, becoming a poacher is like becoming an enemy. Abalone is so valuable, especially in China, that poaching it has become a multi million dollar business especially in these poor coastal cities around Cape Town. According to the government, poaching has brought the abalone to almost collapse. This environmentalist says poaching has been almost like a gold rush. At first he says it was mostly local fisherman but gangs have joined as the value of abalone has gone up. He says he tried to stop them and even tried to confront the poachers and gangs. The criminal gangs have brought violence and drugs to the abalone trade. This government explains that abalone and crystal meth are perfect trade partners for Chinese crime syndicates who bring in the business and their South African gang partners. This criminologist says when people are drawn into poaching they also start using drugs and students are dropping out of school because they're making too much money. The government has had little success stopping the poachers. Poachers have money to buy fast boats and a good work force says this analyst. But enforcement has become good as seizing poached abalone. Last year they confiscated $10 million dollars worth. That money goes right back into crime prevention which poses a conflict of interest. This analyst says enforcement almost depends on catching poachers.

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