Blignault’s co-accused‚ including his ex-wife Marshelle‚ have already pleaded guilty to charges‚ including racketeering and the illegal trade in abalone. They will be sentenced on Thursday.
Business Day reported on Thursday that government had indicated that it was increasing its marine guard services to curb rising levels of abalone – or perlemoen as it is known in South Africa – poaching.
Demand for abalone by Chinese gangs had caused stocks to be depleted at a record rate in South Africa‚ costing the country $60m (about R878-million) annually‚ according to a report this week by wildlife trade monitoring group TRAFFIC.
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.
“We are increasing our marine guard services to cope with the pressure‚” said Khaye Nkwanyana‚ spokesman for agriculture‚ fisheries and forestry minister Senzeni Zokwana.
Blignault initially pleaded not guilty to charges of racketeering and contravening the Marine Living Resources Act. However‚ he changed his tune and pleaded guilty to all the charges earlier in September.