Aquafarm project aims to end abalone poaching

At the Probus Club of the Kowie meeting last week, guest speaker Andrew Witte spoke about the importance of abalone, and what contributions they make economically in South Africa, and why it is important to end poaching.

ATTENTIVELY LISTENING: Andrew Witte answering questions about abalone farming from the audience at the Probus Club meeting held at the Port Alfred Ski-boat Club last week Picture: NTOMBI MSUTU

Originally from East London, Witte has a master’s degree in science at NMU, and currently studying for his PhD at Rhodes University.

Probus Club meets at the Port Alfred Ski-boat Club.

“Last year I went to China to find out about the importance of abalone and I discovered that they are state-of-the-art, and I discovered that there are about 56 species of abalone,” Witte said.

He talked about ranching and enhancing and how abalone farming has grown over the years. He thinks their project of aquaculture can stop the number of poachers along the coastline.

“Poaching is a huge issue in our coastline. Poached abalone sells for R5,500 a kilogram, [while] the legal one they sell for R7,500 a kilogram. They really expensive which is why poachers are always targeting abalone,” Witte said.

It takes between four to five years before abalone reaches commercial size, and because no size uniformity for stocks is enforced, harvested abalone that has not yet reached sexual maturity creates a situation where an ever-widening generation gap develops.

“The inevitable result is that wild South African abalone will be extinct within the next few years,” Witte said.

“Land-based pump-ashore aquaculture farms were established to meet demand and to prevent the species from extinction.”

A study being conducted by a team from the universities of Fort Hare and Rhodes, as well as Nelson Mandela University and commercial fisheries, hopes to find ways to restock natural populations and produce abalone for the export market.

It is hoped that a sustainable fishery will grow the local economy and create jobs. Profitability of commercial aquaculture will depend on the survival, growth and migration of the stock being released, and this is the focus of the project.

BY NTOMBENTSHA MSUTU

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