Abalone worth R1.2-million seized in Cape Town, two arrested

Two unnamed foreign nationals have been arrested after they were found in possession of abalone worth about R1.2 million at a house in Table View.

The South African Police Service (SAPS) in the Western Cape confirmed the arrests and seizure on Saturday.   

“Partnership policing in the Table View area contributed to stopping two abalone smuggling suspects in their tracks on Thursday morning,” Captain FC van Wyk said on Saturday.

“Police acted on information they received about abalone that was kept in a house in Raats Drive in Table View. Maitland SAPS flying squad reacted on the information, searched the house, and seized 4600 units of dry abalone and six bags of frozen abalone. They also seized a large chest freezer, a large pot, gas bottles, and equipment to dry abalone. 

“The abalone, with an estimated street value of R1.2 million, was confiscated. Two foreigners, aged 31 and 35, were arrested and detained at Table View SAPS. Once charged, the suspects were due to appear in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on charges relating to the Living Marine Resources Act, including the illegal possession of abalone,” Van Wyk said.

What is abalone?

Abalone, or perlemoen as we call it here in South Africa, is the name for a group of large, flat sea snails of the genus Haliotis. It may sound unremarkable but has come to champion the cause for marine conservation by showing the world the dangers of overfishing. They are part of a group of animals called gastropods (literally stomach on a foot) and very few survive to maturity even in ideal conditions.

When we refer to “perlemoen”, the Midas ear abalone (Haliotis midae) is what generally comes – but there is a whole lot more to abalone than this one species. The term covers a broad spectrum of species, five of which can be found in South African waters.

They are threatened by poaching, poor fishery management and by invasive alien species.

Adults are at risk of predation by a few large predators, such as rays with crushing jaws and sea otters. However, humans pose the greatest threat to mature perlemoen and are responsible for its current population decline. Abalone’s small size and high value have led to prolific poaching.

Perlemoen is also commercially farmed in South Africa in a sustainable manner that does not put pressure on the delicate ecosystems of the waters of the Cape Peninsula. You can legally buy abalone for consumption but are urged to ensure it has been responsibly sourced.

To find out more about the creatures visit the Two Oceans Aquarium’s website or pop down to the V&A Waterfront and visit them in person.

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