Dramatic police swoop nets 35 abalone poaching suspects

Date: 14 May 2009
The POLICE had to shoot out the engines of two boats belonging to suspected poachers to stop the suspects from sinking police boats off Buffels Bay early yesterday. The suspects tried to puncture police rubberducks in a vain attempt to avoid capture, in one of two separate incidents that ended in 35 arrests. The suspects even rammed into police vessels in their haste to get away. The police retaliated, opening fire on the engines of two of the six boats to stop them from escaping. Three of the boats got away and one was confiscated. Along with the arrests, the police seized more than 2 139 abalone valued at R4 million. The suspected poachers are to appear in the Simon's Town Magistrate's Court by tomorrow on charges of contravening the Marine Living Resources Act and for trespassing. They are in custody at the Simon's Town police station awaiting their court appearances. Police spokesman Andre Traut said police divers and Sea Borderline officers had tracked the six boats after being alerted to their presence at Buffels Bay by Marine and Coastal Management at 3pm on Tuesday. Traut said at 1am yesterday, police officers had moved in on the boats when it had become clear that the men aboard were diving for abalone. He said the suspects had turned hostile and rammed the police boats. Armed with knives, the men had also tried to deflate police rubberducks. Thirty-three suspects had been arrested in their vessels and also in the water after they had tried to evade the police. Traut said that in a separate incident in the same vicinity later yesterday, members of Marine Coastal Management had arrested two male suspects, also for abalone poaching. By Devin Hermanus The Star 14/05/09e1