The Disturbing War for Abalone


South Africa’s illicit abalone trade is steeped in the after-effects of apartheid, organized and violent crime, illegal drugs, and corruption. Species like rhinos, tigers, and elephants are generally better at building public awareness than abalone, a large type of marine snail, but don’t be fooled into thinking that the potency of wildlife crime is any less for abalone. As you read this fascinating account, it’s important to remember that this is one of about sixty species of abalone that each have significant economic value—only two have been assessed by the IUCN Red List and the species below is not one of them.

Abalone is a type of marine snail that has been traditionally harvested and cooked in coastal areas all over the world. Haliotis midae, photo courtesy of Adelle Roux.

For nearly a decade, starting in the early 1990s, abalone poaching operated almost without notice. However, nearing the millenium this small, informal and opportunistic activity exploded into a large-scale, highly organized and transnational criminal activity that now rakes in millions of dollars on the black market. The export of abalone to Asian markets, where consumers will pay hundreds of dollars per kilogram, at first brought unprecedented wealth to coastal communities that —> Read More Here


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