In just on three weeks, airmen, sailors and soldiers of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) seized over R90 000 worth of illegally harvested abalone and diving gear and equipment worth over a quarter of a million rand whilst working alongside police and fisheries inspectors in Western Cape.
The military deployment is in the Overstrand area of the province where illegal abalone harvesting is a known and ongoing problem for law enforcement agencies.
The national defence force deployment, which also has SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) emergency and other healthcare practitioners in support, is mounting high visibility land patrols using Mamba vehicles and maritime patrols with Namacurra harbour patrol boats. The task force is under the command of Joint Tactical headquarters, Western Cape from where it continuously liaises with police and fisheries inspectors and offices from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF).
The SANDF has established a tented base in Gansbaai harbour and is using Mamba armoured personnel carriers for counter-poaching patrols.
“Since the start of this specific Op Corona deployment 1 374 abalone valued at R91 500, diving gear and other equipment to the value of R227 116 has been confiscated and fines totalling R2 500 issued. The total value of fines and confiscated goods to date is R321 116,” Captain (SAN) Jaco Theunissen, Senior Staff Officer Operations Communication Joint Operations Division, said.
Eleven people have been arrested to date.
The deployment is conducted under the mandate of the SANDF responsibility of border safeguarding specifically in the maritime domain. “SANDF forces will continue to dominate the area of responsibility of J Tac HQ WC with deployments, obtain situational awareness and prevent boats and divers in the area launching to conduct illegal activities,” Theunissen added.
Colonel Keith Aarons, Commanding Officer from the Joint Tactical Headquarters Western Cape, said the main aim of the operation is to protect marine resources against illegal harvesting and prevent any boats and divers in the area from going to sea to conduct illegal activities.
Kobus Marais, Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister said: “The DA and myself are in support of theSANDF and this legal, and justified, involvement in Operation Corona in support of Operation Phakisa, with a mandate and terms of engagement, different from to an Operation Prosper deployment. This is a much needed intervention we requested a long time ago. Respect and appreciation to our military forces will be justified.”