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Media Release: Colloborative Efforts Between Law Enforcement Partners Intensify

31 January 2008

On the eve of the closure of the wild abalone commercial fishery and the implementation of the diving ban, sixteen people involved in illegal diving in the Bird Island Marine Protected Area (MPA) were arrested yesterday, Wednesday 30 January, during collaborative compliance efforts between officials from the South African National Parks (SANParks) and the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism’s (DEAT) marine and coastal management  division. Twelve suspects were taken to Port Elizabeth yesterday and four suspects this morning (Thursday 31 January 2008) after weather conditions deteriorated making it difficult for one of the vessels to return to Port Elizabeth with the suspects last night. The 16 suspects are expected to appear in the Port Elizabeth Magistrates court by Friday 1 February 2008.

Abalone shucking tools and diving equipment which include diving bottles and cylinders, snorkels and flippers were confiscated.

The incident follows after SANParks rangers noticed two super ducks around the MPA during a patrol in the area on SANParks ‘Kadouw’ vessel.

As the rangers gave chase DEAT’s speed chase vessel, the Florence Mkhize was immediate dispatched to the area. The super ducks fled the area, abandoning their divers in the water. One super duck returned soon thereafter in an attempt retrieve the divers but fled off again after warning shots were fired into the air.

Upon the arrival of the Florence Mkhize 12 divers were immediately arrested and taken to Port Elizabeth. Four divers are taken to Port Elizabeth this morning, Thursday 31 January 2008.

At the same time yesterday, one of the department’s inshore environmental protection vessel, the Victoria Mxenge was deployed in the St Francis Bay area. No poaching activities were noted. The vessels are known to have a huge deterrent affect.
The Victoria Mxenge however anchored at Bird Island last night keeping close watch on the remaining suspects left behind.

Bird Island is part of Addo Elephant National Park and is home to the largest breeding colony of Cape gannets in the world. The waters around Bird Island were proclaimed as a Marine Protected Area in 2004.

In a separate incident earlier this week in the Overberg area, information was received from the member of public about a super duck which was about to deliver a poached shipment of abalone and west coast rock lobster at the Hawston slipway. Officials immediately investigated. A super duck was later spotted.  Officials approached four suspects in a vehicle who resisted efforts from the officials to block the vehicle. Members of SAPS were called in for back up. Four men were arrested and a vehicle was confiscated.

Enquiries: Megan Taplin (Bradfield)
Regional Communications Manager: Addo Elephant National  Park (SANParks)
Tel: 042 2338609 or 083 6508649

Carol Moses
Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism
Tel: 082 8293917

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