4 June 2014
Addo Elephant National Park’s marine protection team has a new anti-poaching vessel which will be used to combat illegal fishing and poaching of the threatened abalone species in the protected area around Bird Island, South African National Parks (SANparks) said in a statement.
The vessel, a Gemini Waverider Pro, was handed over last month by the park’s Honorary Rangers to replace the aging 14-year-old vessel currently in use. The Honorary Rangers are a conservation group of volunteers who work in support of SANparks.
Situated close to Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape, Addo Elephant National Park is the third-largest of South Africa’s 19 national parks. The park has grown over the past decade to encompass a marine reserve that includes St Croix Island and Bird Island, both important breeding grounds for gannets, penguins and a variety of marine life.
“It was decided that the vessel was the most effective support we could offer the Addo Elephant Park in their attempts to curb abalone poaching off our immediate coastline,” Rob Holliday, Honorary Rangers chair for the Addo region, said in a statement published on the SANParks website.
The large-scale illegal harvesting of abalone by organised crime syndicates started in the Eastern Cape, and mainly along the Port Elizabeth coastline, in 1996, SANParks said. As the resource continued to be plundered and became scarce, this illegal activity expanded in the direction of Bird Island in around 2002.
In 2004, a marine protected area was established around the Bird Island group to try and curb the poaching, and in 2006 a complete dive ban was implemented, “but the plundering continued”, the statement said.
In 2008, a SANParks marine section was established to maintain a presence in the area. The nine-person team alternates between being based on Bird Island and on vessels in and around the protected area, and has made a number of arrests and confiscated numerous vessels over the years.
The vessel, christened the JMB Malusi, is named after three former marine rangers who were killed in a car accident near Alexandria in 2010: John Molefe Mapheu, Marvin Ricardo Williams and Bonga Richman Skotsho. “Malusi” is the Xhosa word for shepherd.
Speaking at the handover of the team’s new vessel, John Adendorff, Addo’s conservation manager and acting park manager, said: “As a skipper out at sea, our rangers shouldn’t worry about the reliability of the vessel they’re skippering, and whether it’ll place their or the lives of their crew in danger.
“Also, as an enforcement officer out at sea at night, combating illegal activities conducted by organised crime syndicates, they need the best equipment available to achieve the maximum positive results.”