The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF), though its Green Scorpions law enforcement division, is a major contributor to the marine protection services component of Operation Phakisa.
The operation is a government initiative aimed at extracting value from the oceans around South Africa and is made up of a number of components. These include ensuring maritime laws and regulations are effectively implemented. In this regard the Green Scorpions lead with the maritime component of DEFF in the form of fisheries patrol, protection and research vessels, along with the SA Navy, doing offshore patrols.
Effective implementation of Phakisa’s maritime protection component is, according to a DEFF statement, made possible by an integrated co-ordinated approach to maritime compliance and enforcement. A number of government departments and agencies are mandated to undertake enforcement in this space, including the police, fisheries, environmental and conservation authorities, SAMSA (SA Maritime Safety Association), Customs, intelligence structures, the national defence force as well as the departments of Home Affairs and Minerals and Energy.
“The situation pertaining to illegal harvesting of marine resources along the seaboard remains critical. Poachers have become increasingly aggressive and this has led to injuries, seen burning of state infrastructure and contributed to the loss of life,” the statement said.
“The increasingly aggressive nature of poachers can be attributed to the successes of Operation Phakisa, the disruption in illegal trade and losses sustained by the crime syndicates. The positive impact Operation Phakisa has when officials are deployed in specific areas is noticeable and local communities express appreciation for the presence of enforcement officers. These achievements are underscored by intensification of poaching activities as soon as Phakisa operations end and security personnel withdraw.
“Five confiscations in the 2018/19 financial year totalled R28 022 983 compared to R40 617 927 for the previous term, the difference is attributed to a major drug bust the previous year. In the 2017/18 financial year, the SA Revenue Service-led Operation Bark and Bite saw confiscation of drugs in Cape Town harbour valued at over R30 million.
“In the past year the number of marine resources confiscated increased dramatically, with confiscation of abalone worth more than R21.3 million and rock lobster worth more than R675 000. Equipment used in illegal activities worth more than R5 million, as well as other illicit goods, including drugs, were confiscated during raids,” according to the statement.