Two of the SA’s largest illegal exports to the East are poached rhino horn and poached abalone

Ahead of the recent BRICKS summit President Cyril Ramaphosa hosted his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to an official state visit at the Union Buildingd. During talks Ramaphosa was able to secure a R33bn loan to pull Eskom out of the dwang and another R4bn to fund Transnet’s bad behaviour. One has to wonder how these loans are any different from what Britain has been doing for the past hundred years and that is now denounced as colonialism.

Ramaphosa was at pains to explain that the Eskom and Transnet agreements were loans and thus, one would imagine, must be repaid to China over some agreed term. So if Eskom and/or Transnet don’t manage to repay the loans in terms of the agreement does this mean that China can repossess these state entities? Seems a rather slanted new colonisation process. Maybe our children and grandchildren would best start learning Mandarin.

But we digress for President Xi also committed R14.7-billion to investment in infrastructure and the economy with emphasis on Ocean and Green Economies. Consider that two of the SA’s largest illegal exports to the East are poached rhino horn and poached abalone. Now there is little that can be done to satiate the east’s predilection for rhino horn as breeding rhino quickly enough presents a challenge considering how many rhino are being brutally slaughtered each month.

But Abalone /  Perlemoen (from the Dutch paarlemoer  – mother of pearl) is a totally different can of worms or rather molluscs, for abalone can be farmed and if farmed in sufficient quantities, could bring an end to a 1-billion rand Abalone poaching industry that has almost wiped out natural abalone beds along the South African coastline.

A couple of years ago at the height of the conversation on how to save St Francis beach, local architect Trevor Tennant showed SFT a concept that could possibly offer a self-sustaining solution to restoring the eroding sand by combining it to an abalone farm. For whatever reasons the concept was not investigated and so returned to a bottom drawer to gather dust in Trevor’s desk.

Motivated by Ramaphosa announcement of China’s willingness to invest and particularly the mention of ‘Ocean Economy’  Trevor opened the drawer , dusted off the file and met with SFT over coffee at Pedal and Spoke a week or so ago. Trevor’s concept may be worth  considering for it could offer two solutions in one.

Brand SA reported last year that a new research study was being conducted by a team from the universities of Fort Hare and Rhodes, as well as Nelson Mandela University and commercial fisheries, in the hope finding ways to restock natural populations and produce abalone for the export market. The research was being headed by Professor Peter Britz of Rhodes, former head of the International Abalone Association. How far this research has progressed is uncertain but maybe this team should be invited to do some preliminary investigations to see if the concept is indeed feasible.

If workable the next step would be to find an investor willing to set up farm and if China is so willing to invest in our Ocean Economy there is no reason why our local government should not make noises in the right influencer’s ears to attract a Chinese developer.

SFT is not saying Trevor’s concept is financially or ecologically viable or that it will solve all the woes of beach erosion but it makes for interesting reading and surely must at least be investigated, if not as a way of replenishing the sand on St Francis Bay beach, then as a way of adding to our region’s existing ocean economy activities and lessening poaching activity.

Click to view Trevor’s Concept

And no! Abalone farming will not attract sharks.

Useful reading

Abalone aquaculture could end poaching