A case study of abalone poaching in South Africa and its impact on fisheries management
In South Africa, as fisheries management continues to move through a transformation process, it is confronted with a myriad of uncertain scenarios which have the potential to jeopardize its objectives. One such situation, which has proved to be threatening to the sustainable utilization of marine resources, is illegal exploitation. In recent years, South Africa has witnessed an increase in poaching activities, with a particular emphasis on the lucrative abalone industry. This fishery has existed successfully for almost 50 years, with an average annual catch in the past 10 years of 615 tonnes. Dramatic cuts in the total allowable catch since late 1996, with up to 90% reductions in key areas, have placed the long-term sustainability of the fishery in question. A criminological study of abalone poaching in a community where both the legal and illegal industries are centred has clearly illustrated both the severity and the complexity of the problem. Negative ramifications have spread through several spheres, incorporating environmental, social, economic, and political dynamics. From the perspective of the community, where poaching is rife, this study highlights the impact poaching has had on a local level, representing significant obstacles for successful fisheries management. The de-legitimization of regulations, the mistrust and corruption of authorities, the bitter and often violent conflict between resource users and the increased fear within the community exacerbate the challenges for cooperative management structures. Although there has been a historic reliance on law enforcement and crime control to address the problem of illegal exploitation, it has been recognized that a shift in governance needs to take place. However, such a shift will require extreme measures that consider the broad issues discussed above. (C) 1999 International Council for the Exploration of the Sea.