Abalone court challenge postponed

A court challenge to Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk’s new abalone restrictions has been postponed for a month.

Legal teams of the South African Abalone Industry Association (SAAIA) and the state gathered at the Cape High Court on Friday morning for what was expected to be an application for an urgent interdict against the restrictions.

However, state advocate Willie Duminy told the court that the SAAIA’s papers were in a mess and that the application was “ridiculous”.

“They must be put to the sword and the application must be done the proper way,” he said.

Judge Lee Bozalek said the application looked like a matter that deserved attention, and urged the two sides to ask the judge president for a date for a proper hearing.

“This is not something that can be done on the turn,” he said.

It is understood that the application will likely come back to court at the beginning of December.

Van Schalkwyk this week backed down on an immediate ban on commercial abalone harvesting from the wild, saying it would instead be implemented from the end of January.

He announced instead that the total allowable catch would be reduced by almost half to 75 tons.

In an affidavit drawn up for Friday’s application, SAAIA representative Scott Russell said the minister’s claim that he was postponing the ban for the sake of communities’ welfare over the Christmas period was “empty political rhetoric”.

“Where before yesterday [Wednesday] he held a pistol to the heads of the applicants, he has now replaced it with a shotgun, under the pretext of the honourable thing of uplifting the ban,” he said.

He said 302 fishermen would now compete for 75 tons of abalone in a three-month period, flooding the market and lowering prices.

Russell challenged Van Schalkwyk to produce the scientific reports on which his decisions were made.

“In the past these documents were public documents. It is clear the [minister] is hiding something,” he said.—Sapa

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