Traffic report- EMPTY SHELLS: An assessment of abalone poaching and trade from southern Africa



Driven by sophisticated transnational criminal networks and local gangs, the illegal abalone trade has been fuelled by deeply entrenched socio-economic disparities in the Western Cape, bitterly contested fishing quotas, drugs, and gang violence. Download report…

  empty_shells.pdf (10.9 MiB)



Abalone, a marine mollusc, is a highly sought-after seafood delicacy, produced and harvested worldwide for predominantly East Asian markets.



 A total of 56 species of abalone are recognized globally (Geiger, 2000), but only approximately 10 to 14 species support commercial fisheries in the main harvesting areas of Australia, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa, Mexico and the United States (Wood, 1999; Fishtech, 1999, Cook & Gordon, 2010). In recent years, many commercial abalone fisheries have either declined or been closed due to the vulnerability of abalone to overfishing and a growing demand in East Asia (Bürgener, 2010). Historically, there has been a serial depletion of abalone across all major supply countries which have shown similar trends in the rapid increases in landings followed by steady declines due to overexploitation of the stocks (Cook & Gordon, 2010). However, despite the decline in the abundance of abalone worldwide, the supply now exceeds the peak levels of its “heyday” in the 1970s, due to the more recent development of abalone farming as well as high levels of illegal harvesting (Cook & Gordon, 2010; Raemaekers et al., 2011).



Historically, South Africa was considered one of the world's major abalone-producing countries (Cook & Gordon, 2010), but has suffered severe declines over the last 20 years, mostly due to illegal harvesting co-ordinated largely through complex criminal syndicates. South Africa is home to five abalone species, but only one, Haliotis midae (a species endemic to the country) is harvested commercially. This is the only species in East and Southern Africa for which there is known commercial demand. Thus, from here on, all mention of abalone refers to H. midae only.



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