Traffic: Poached Abalone from South Africa is Flowing into Hong Kong Markets
Hong Kong, 9 February 2018—A new TRAFFIC report reveals a thriving trade in poached South African abalone Haliotis midae in Hong Kong, where the marine mollusc is considered a delicacy in Cantonese cuisine. Over the last 20 years, the illegal harvest of abalone in South Africa has exceeded the legal quotas, with criminal networks poaching and smuggling wild abalone to Hong Kong, which imports about 90% of all dried South African abalone.
The report, “An assessment of South African dried abalone Haliotis midae consumption and trade in Hong Kong,” produced by TRAFFIC as part of the USAID-funded Wildlife TRAPS Project, shows that South African abalone imports to Hong Kong have increased in recent years, despite severe restrictions on wild harvest. It estimates that of South African abalone imports to Hong Kong in 2015, 65% was illegally sourced and trafficked compared to the 35% that was legally wild-caught or produced through aquaculture operations.
“Abalone is one of the most prized items in Cantonese cuisine—a must-have on celebratory banquet menus,” said TRAFFIC’s Wilson Lau, author of the assessment. “Right now, in preparation for the upcoming Chinese New Year, thousands of people are buying abalone in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, if it’s dried abalone from South Africa, it may have been poached and trafficked, meaning consumers run the risk of unwittingly surpporting organized crime.”