Friday, January 18, 2019
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Navy called in to help stop poaching of marine resources

Four Namacurra patrol boats in Gansbaai harbour.Maritime elements of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) have been called on to help create a better South Africa and contribute to a better and safer country, this time by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF).

Lieutenant Colonel Piet Paxton, Senior Staff Officer Operational Communications at Joint Operations, said police regularly worked with DAFF anti-poaching personnel as part of the department’s monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) branch.

“A request for assistance was received and a decision was taken to deploy a small mobile maritime force until November 20 to focus on helping to stop the ongoing poaching of marine resources in Western Cape,” he said.

In terms of its mandate as set out by the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) the Department of Defence (DoD) has to, among others, contribute to all people in South Africa being and feeling safe and create a better and safer South Africa.

This is part of the motivation for assistance which has seen a small mobile maritime force comprising elements of the Navy’s Maritime Reaction Squadron (MRS) and Navy divers backed by small craft mobilised from Simon’s Town.

Paxton said he could not be specific about where the small force would operate because “if it becomes public knowledge poachers can and will change their modus operandi”.

He would only say taskings would be done in both areas traditionally known as poaching hotspots as well as others identified by intelligence.

MCS has as its core mandate the implementation of the Marine Living Resource Act and its regulations. Together these provide for conservation of the marine ecosystem, long term sustainable utilisation of marine living resources and orderly access to exploitation, utilisation and protection of “certain marine living resources”.

Maritime poaching in Western Cape is largely shore-based with abalone and crayfish the main targets.

On November 13 South African Navy elements, including four Namacurra class harbour patrol boats, deployed to Gansbaai harbour in the Western Cape to combat abalone poaching, which is rife in the region. Francois de Jongh, publisher of the Gansbaai Courant, said the week before the SANDF arrived, 7 364 abalone were confiscated after authorities pursued a suspicious vehicle.

In addition to the Namacurras, a Westland Super Lynx 300 has also been deployed to Gansbaai. De Jongh said abalone poachers have been lying low since the SANDF arrived and began conducting patrols.