Featured Image Credit: http://seaa.rwsentosablog.com
By: Sarah Sharkey
There is a trafficking war going on in South Africa, but the item being trafficked is just not what you would expect. Abalone has been the target of multiple armed robberies and it appears that tensions are only rising.
Abalone is a large shellfish that serves as a status symbol in Asia. The price can be an astronomic 90$ or higher per pound and it is sold next to other questionable delicacies such as shark fin. The wild abalone population had been sustainably providing 770 tons of the prized shellfish every year. The sustainability of this harvest was ruined by the poaching that has run rampant in South Africa.
The poaching in combination with a rising demand from the new Chinese middle class has decimated wild population. The nation turned to aquaculture methods to continue providing this monetarily rewarding shellfish to Asian markets. The industry was able to start producing a great harvest, bringing in over $73 million dollars in 2015.
Now poachers are stealing from farmers in processors in order to keep up with the black market demand. Abalone serves as a currency of sorts in the black market, so poachers cannot afford for their supply to run dry. The theft is getting increasingly violent, armed robbery, shoot-outs and kidnappings are becoming a very scary reality for farmers trying to sustainably create a market for the prized abalone.
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