Diving from inflatable rubber boats is being banned in all areas of South Africa where perlemoen live. This move was just announced by the South African government. The goal is to make it harder for perlemoen poachers who often use rubber duck boats. This ban will mean that recreational divers on the Western Cape will not be able to dive from their inflatable boats. This new ban takes effect on December 1, 2003.
This change will hamper the area’s thousands of recreational divers, most of whom dive from inflatables. The tourist dive industry will of course be negatively impacted as well…
The Western Cape is home to a busy inflatable craft industry and nearby factories provide jobs for many people. Recreational diving on wrecks, spearfishing and snorkling on the coral reefs along the coast are all very popular and hundreds if not thousands own rubber ducks.
The abalone industry in South Africa is worth several million pounds and employs over 1,000 people. Perlemoen – also commonly known as Abalone – is one of the sea’s most sumptuous offerings. This delicacy is not commonly found, however, owing to its endangered nature and costly price tag. High economic returns to fishermen and recreational diving pressure have contributed to perlemoen becoming an endangered species.
Perlemoen are found on rocks near the shores of all warm seas except for the western Atlantic Ocean. The holes along the side of the Perlemoen’s shell occur naturally and allow waste and the water currents from which the animal obtains oxygen to exchange freely. The abalone’s ear-shaped shell is streamlined for minimal resistance to the movements of its shallow-water habitat. The rare little creatures feed on seaweed.
They grow to market sizes of 80 to 100mm shell lengths and 80 to 150 gram live weights in some two-and-a-half to four years from the date of spawning. The egg hatches as a microscopic free-living larva, which drifts with the currents for about a week. It then settles to the bottom, sheds the swimming hairs and begins to develop the adult shell form. If a suitable habitat is located, it will grow to adulthood.
Recreational divers argue that the government needs to address the poaching and distribution issues. They suggest better policing of the harbors where the abalone are landed, tight controls over the aircraft companies that export the abalone off the continent, and if need be even a total ban on the taking of any perlemoen until the populations of this shellfish can recover from the overfishing allowed to date.
To learn more about these fascinating creatures visit: http://web.uct.ac.za/.