A high speed chase in howling winds and rough seas on Tuesday 13 October ended when three alleged abalone poachers were arrested and had their vessel and gear confiscated. The three, aged between 28 and 39, were found trespassing in the Addo Elephant National Park (AENP) Bird Island Marine Protected Area (MPA) in Algoa Bay.
AENP marine rangers stationed on Bird Island spotted the vessel in the MPA just after 7:00 am yesterday morning and launched an investigation. As they approached, the suspects’ vessel sped off with three passengers on board. During the pursuit, the suspects tried to douse the SANParks vessel with fuel and set it alight. The police’s assistance was called in, and during the chase, the suspects attempted to drive over an SAPS official on a jet ski. After a pursuit of about 50 kilometres, the suspects beached their vessel west of the Ngqura harbour and fled. One was arrested shortly thereafter.
South African National Parks (SANParks) meanwhile dispatched a second vessel to the MPA, where a further two suspects were arrested on Seal Island where they had hidden from the authorities to avoid arrest.
The three were taken to the Swartkops Police Station in Port Elizabeth, where they were charged with attempted murder, illegal diving within an MPA, entering a national park without a permit and not complying with the instructions of an Environmental Management Inspector. Their vessel as well as all their gear, valued at about R450 000, were confiscated. They will appear in court within the next two days.
SANParks is grateful for the assistance of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries; the SAPS Air Wing, Organised Crime and Dog units; Nelson Mandela Bay conservation officials, Port of Ngqura security officials and members of the public.
South African National Parks views abalone poaching in a serious light. All the available resources will be used to put a stop to the threat on this marine species. Despite rough seas and strong winds all day yesterday, Addo Elephant National Park’s marine team once again proved that they are committed to ensuring marine compliance as one of their key roles.
Addo Elephant National Park’s Marine Section is responsible for the management of the Algoa Bay Islands (Bird Island group: Bird Island, Stag Island, Seal Island and Black Rocks, St. Croix Island, Jahleel Island and Brenton Island), the Bird Island Marine Protected Area and the terrestrial area at Sunday’s river.
The Marine Section conducts sea patrols between Port Elizabeth and Port Alfred (68 sea nautical miles), boat patrols on the Sunday’s river and vehicle patrols along the Sunday’s river Coastline between the Sunday’s river and Addo’s Woody Cape Section (near Alexandria).
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