Illegal trade in ‘live rock’ flourishing
Garvies Beach on the Bluff. Photo Credit: Gcina Ndwalane, Independent Newspapers
"Unemployed men have started stripping “live rock” from the coast south of Durban, apparently for sale to the aquarium trade."
Live rock is soft and porous rock made up from dead coral material and is often used in salt water fish tanks as a biological filtration system.
Because it contains many forms of small, living marine life it is known as “live” rock.
Local engineer Graeme Hastie said he came across two men chipping at pieces of the rock with an axe and a pointed steel bar close to Garvies Beach on the Bluff last week.
Hastie said he was snorkelling in the rock pools when he heard a tapping noise beneath the water. “I saw a guy using an axe and a pry bar to break huge chunks off the reef. There was another guy on the shore – his partner in crime – with more buckets of live rock.”
The man became defensive when asked if he had a licence, he said. “He said the live rock was for his fish tank, but it was clear that he didn’t know what its function was. These guys looked down and out and were clearly hustling for some cash.”
Hastie said this type of live rock was sold in local pet shops for between R70 and R150 a kilogram. “I’m guessing someone is buying the live rock from them for resale in a pet store or they’re selling it online.
“I was annoyed and told them what they were doing was totally unacceptable and politely asked them to stop. They left and when I snorkelled to where they’d been working it was disappointing to see how much of the reef had been hacked away.”
Hastie said it seemed the illegal collection had been going on for some time as the area was littered with fragments of broken reef. “The total area of damage I could see is 3m2.”
Hastie alerted Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife’s anti-poaching staff. A local marine conservation official said collectors moved about to avoid getting caught, offering live rock for sale to pet shops. He warned that people collecting marine organisms illegally would be prosecuted.
Members of the public can report suspected illegal activities to Ezemvelo’s Marine Anti-Poaching Hotline at 083 380 6298.