The government says it is increasing its marine guard services in a bid to curb rising levels of abalone poaching in SA. Demand for abalone by Chinese gangs has caused SA’s stocks of the marine molluscs to be depleted at a record rate, costing the country $60m annually, according to a report this week by wildlife trade monitoring group TRAFFIC. Chinese criminal syndicates are said to use crystal meth as a reward for gangs in the Western Cape to dive for the delicacy. TRAFFIC said the country’s coasts had been stripped of at least 96-million abalone in the past 18 years, with 9.6-million poached in 2016 alone. "These are almost the highest — if not the highest — poaching levels we have seen in the last twenty or more years," the report says. Despite a mounting risk that abalone, a type of sea snail, could become extinct, they were removed from the CITES list of at-risk species in 2010. High market value Abalone has a high market value and is one of the most sought-after delicacies lo...

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