Acting on a tip-off, police pounced on a farm in Walkerville on Monday evening on hearing that the abalone (perlemoen) was about to be smuggled out of the country to Zimbabwe, said Superintendent Lungelo Dlamini.
"Abalone was stashed between vegetables. It is believed that a syndicate operating in the Vaal Rand area packed them into potato bags to disguise them as part of vegetables," said Dlamini.
He said the abalone seized was packed in 336 bags of potatoes.
Police were searching for the owner of a truck on which the abalone was packed as he was believed to be a member of a syndicate smuggling abalone out of the country.
Abalone (from Spanish Abulón) are small to very large-sized edible sea snails and makes up very expensive dinner dish in the World’s five star hotels. See picture of fresh abalone-
The largest abalone in South Africa, the Perlemoen, Haliotis midae, occurs along approximately two-thirds of the country’s coastline. Perlemoen-diving has been a recreational activity for many years, but stocks are currently being threatened by illegal commercial harvesting.
In South Africa all persons harvesting this animal need permits that are issued on a yearly basis, and no abalone may be harvested using scuba gear.
For the last few years, however, no permits have been issued for collecting Abalone (Perlemoen), but commercial harvesting still continues as does illegal collection by syndicates.
In 2007, because of widespread poaching of abalone, the South African government listed perlemoen as an endangered species according to the CITES section III appendix, which requests member governments to monitor the trade in this species.
The abalone meat from South Africa is prohibited for sale in the country to help reduce poaching however, much of the illegally harvested meat is sold in Asian countries.
As of early 2008, the wholesale price for abalone meat was approximately US$40.00 per kilogram.
"More arrests are expected as the investigation is continuing," Dlamini said. – Sapa