Namibia: Smuggling Abalone Could Harm Infant Industry

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
14 February 2007, at 12:00am

NAMIBIA - Smuggling of abalone (commonly known as perlemoen) into Namibia has the potential of harming the infant industry.

The only abalone farmer in the country, Rassie Erasmus, and Traffic, the wildlife trade monitoring network, have warned that if this trend continues, it will cause enforcement challenges for Namibia, which has legal commercial aquaculture operations.

Due to strict controls in South Africa, where abalone species are endemic, poached abalone is smuggled into neighbouring countries from where it is exported.

A Senior Programme Officer of Traffic East/Southern Africa, Markus Bürgener, said in a press statement that recently, poached abalone from South Africa was smuggled into Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and Namibia and exported to major destinations in the East.

"Although no abalone species are either commercially harvested or legally traded through these countries, Hong Kong import data has revealed imports of dried and frozen abalone from all the three countries," said Bürgener, adding: "Poached abalone is also traded through Namibia and this poses enforcement challenges since there are legal commercial aquaculture operations in Namibia producing and trading in perlemoen."

Erasmus attributed this to lax controls on the part of South Africa's neighbours.

"South Africa is very strict. Now they want to use Namibia as an escape route. Our harbours and airports are not tight, so they try to smuggle it here and export it out," said Erasmus.

Although it would be easier for abalone to be smuggled here and exported out, Erasmus said this would cause a lot of problems for Namibia, as there is interest from some Asian countries to invest in the industry.

"It is very bad for potential farmers in Namibia. I know that the Chinese want to invest in mariculture, and if these things (smuggling) continue, the business will suffer. It will harm the country," said a worried Erasmus, owner of Lüderitz Abalone.