Confiscated South African abalone stolen at gunpoint

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Poached abalone confiscated by South African police has been stolen by gunmen in a raid on a state facility where illicit hoards of the marine delicacy were stored, a government ministry said on Monday.

Abalone – mollusks found in cold South African coastal waters – face extinction in the region because of rampant poaching to meet demand in Asia, where their pearly flesh is highly prized on the dinner table.

The ministry responsible for fisheries said an undisclosed amount had been stolen last week from a site at Cape Town’s Paarden Island.
“A group of armed and masked men overpowered security personnel tasked with protecting the storage facility,” it said in a statement.

The abalone had been seized during operations to curb illegal fishing, and was slated to be sold, legally, to raise funds to combat poaching.
“The Minister plans to review the process of selling and storage of the confiscated abalone by the department, including options to outsource the function completely or in part or even stop the selling,” the statement said.

It said such a review was needed because the system may “have been open to abuse which has the potential to encourage corruption and collusion.”