By Yolandé Stander
THE government’s controversial allocation of perlemoen permits to Eastern Cape communities could be in contravention of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ own regulations and could “wipe out” the entire industry.
Marine experts said the department had strict regulations in place which prohibited the moving of perlemoen from one region to another to prevent the spread of various diseases.
Weekend Post has established that only two companies – Overberg Commercial Abalone (perlemoen) Divers and Pescaluna – both based in the Western Cape – have been appointed to do the harvesting, processing and distribution of perlemoen on behalf of the communities.
However, it also emerged that the Wild Coast Abalone farm near East London had a large and modern processing facility and had shown interest in becoming involved in this project, but this never materialised.
Managing director Richard Clarke said although they only had a permit to process farmed perlemoen and not the wild variety, they had the facilities and know-how. Last year they processed 130 tons of farmed perlemoen.
Department spokesman Lionel Adendorf said Western Cape companies were given the green light because “perlemoen infrastructure in the Eastern Cape did not exist” and no local companies had the necessary permits to perform such duties.
He said within three years the Western Cape companies would need to “pull out”, and the skills and knowledge built up over this period would “stay behind”.
However, Rhodes University ichthyology head and chairman of the International Abalone Association, Professor Peter Britz, revealed this week that outsourcing these duties to companies in other regions could threaten the country’s industry.
Britz said “the abalone farmers and the department agreed no abalone may be transported between the Eastern and Western Cape without undergoing health checks” after the translocation of some parasitic worms on perlemoen shells that were introduced into Western Cape perlemoen farms from the Eastern Cape.
Adendorf said he was only aware of one regulation prohibiting the movement of perlemoen, but that this pertained to the export of perlemoen harvested west of Cape Point. He said safety measures were in place to ensure no disease was spread between the regions.
This is a shortened version of an article that first appeared in the print edition of Weekend Post on Saturday June 23 2012.
Article source: http://theweekendpost.com/2012/06/26/3881/