This study seeks to explore the relationship between abalone poaching, use of methamphetamine and crime activity in the coastal communities of South Africa; and the associated implications for the management of the resource.
The abalone industry in South Africa is reliant on the singly exploited species - Haliotis midae. Unrestricted commercial harvesting of abalone began in 1949. In a bid to protect this resource, regulation of the abalone industry was introduced in 1970, in the form of seasonal quotas. The total allowable catch remained relatively stable before being adjusted downwards to 550 tons in 1996/97. As the total allowable catch was declining towards the end of the 1990s, poaching was escalating. By the end of the 1990s poaching had become “a highly organised, multi-million dollar illicit industry, controlled by street gangs on the shoreline and by transnational criminal enterprises on the trade routes to East Asia”.
Despite further reductions in the total allowable catch in the 2000s and increased investment in shoreline patrolling (as well as various other government initiatives), the illicit abalone industry was escalating. By 2002, enforcement authorities were confiscating more abalone per year than were harvested by the legitimate commercial abalone fishery. In a bid to counter the increasing threat of extinction, the authorities slashed the total allowable catch to approximately 75 tons towards the end of 2007. The South African government issued a ban on all wild abalone fishing in South Africa, effective 1 February 2008 amid concerns that its existence had been threatened with extinction from overexploitation. Such a move potentially has adverse implications on the livelihoods of those individuals previously involved in this industry. Furthermore, the move could be detrimental to the resource itself if it is true, as has been suggested, that criminals will stop at nothing to ensure continued access to the abalone which is widely believed to be bartered for a recreational drug (methamphetamine) whose consumption is positively related to other criminal activities.
The study will formulate a model which can be used to analyse joint consumption of illegal commodities/activities such as abalone poaching and drugs as well as other related cases such as prostitution and drugs. The model will be used to identify and appraise the likely effects of various policy instruments in curbing abalone poaching and the other associated criminal activities. Based on factual information from the abalone fishing villages, such as Hawston and Kleinmont, the study will set the magnitudes of the parameters of the model. The comparative static analysis of the empirical model will yield definite results of the effects of various policy instruments. As part of the policy issues investigation, the study will explore whether there exists an optimal total allowable catch that can minimize abalone poaching and other related criminal activities. Such results can directly be taken up by policy makers as a guide to designing actual interventions in the abalone industry. The study will set a stage for a follow-up study which will run experiments with fishing villages.