One Saturday night in August, Deurick van Blerk, 26, climbed into his small boat off the coast of Cape Town on another of his illegal fishing expeditions. He never returned. Investigators are looking into allegations by fellow divers and his family that he was shot by a task force during an anti-poaching operation in an increasingly violent battle between authorities and illegal hunters of abalone shellfish and kreef (rock lobster). "Deurick and I started poaching when we were 15 years old," said his cousin, Bruce van Reenen, 23. "Often we were fishing together, but that night we weren't. We went on separate boats. I went diving around the corner in Camps Bay and Deurick went to Cape Point for lobster that night," said Van Reenen. Divers such as Van Blerk and Van Reenen can earn thousands of rands for a successful night's fishing. But it is a fraction of what the dried abalone is worth on the markets of Hong Kong, with prices reaching thousands of dollars a kilogram. Overfishing sta...

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