Seized crayfish returned ‘rotten’

A wild coast restaurant owner who had 97kg of legally purchased crayfish confiscated by sea fisheries officials just before the start of the holiday season is up in arms after the crayfish were allegedly returned rotten.

BIG STINK: The allegedly rotten crayfish, which were seized earlier by fisheries officials from a Port St Johns restaurant, and only returned after a high court ruling Picture: SUPPLIED
BIG STINK: The allegedly rotten crayfish, which were seized earlier by fisheries officials from a Port St Johns restaurant, and only returned after a high court ruling Picture: SUPPLIED

Peter Woodford, who recently opened the Waterfront Restaurant in picturesque Port St Johns, yesterday said he had to go to the Mthatha High Court and get an order for sea fisheries officials to return the 272 East Coast lobster and freezer confiscated during the raid in early December.

According to Woodford, the crayfish were returned rotten on December 21 – a week after the high court ruled the goods had to be returned. “On opening [the freezer] and closer inspection of the contents, the East Cape lobster failed two of the layman’s tests of freshness.” Woodford said the first indication the R15000-worth of crayfish was rotten was the smell of the freezer, as well as the foul odour coming from the individually packed items when he opened them. Another was that ink had leaked in the packaging and freezer.

He said the contents of the freezer were inspected within 30 minutes of him receiving the goods back and that they had been sent for testing by health authorities as well as a private laboratory. Attempts to get comment from Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) spokesperson Palesa Mokomele were unsuccessful yesterday. Luzuko Buku, acting spokesman for economic development, environmental affairs and tourism MEC, Sakhumzi Somyo, yesterday said the matter was of “serious concern”. “We will have to look into it and [try] get a better understanding from DAFF.”

The crayfish were seized despite Woodford having receipts to prove he bought them legally from exporters Live Fish Tanks in Mthatha.

“Not only has the department of fisheries affected the new Waterfront Restaurant, they have also wasted a marine resource which was legally caught by Wild Coast fishermen….” Live Fish Tanks owner Greg Noble confirmed the crayfish were legally bought by Woodford. — davidm@dispatch.co.za

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