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S.Africa Postpones Abalone Fishery Ban

Date: 01-Nov-07
Country: SOUTH AFRICA

The cabinet's move last week prompted the powerful COSATU trade union to join with fishermen to lodge an urgent court case to overturn the ban.

"I have decided to delay the implementation of the decision to February 1, 2008," South Africa's environmental affairs minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk told a media briefing.

"I don't think there's any basis for any urgent or other application. ... I'm very confident that legally we are absolutely in the clear on this issue," van Schalkwyk said on Wednesday.

The government has drastically reduced the total allowable abalone catch in the wild and attempted to encourage saltwater farming of the shellfish.

Shipped to Asia as a seafood delicacy, abalone has become a prized commodity for South African entrepreneurs as well as criminals who have poached the mollusc close to extinction.

The amount of illegal abalone confiscated in South Africa has soared to more than 1 million shellfish from 21,000 in 1994.

COSATU said in a statement it welcomed Wednesday's decision and was committed to working with the government on the issue.

However, the South African Abalone Industry Association, which represents the commercial abalone fishing industry, will press ahead with court action to overturn the ban.

"Our abalone season opens tomorrow, we want to go fishing and put food on the table," said spokesman Scott Russell.

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