Case Study 6: Hout Bay and the illegal lobster trade: a case study in recovering illicit proceeds of IUU fishing and wildlife trafficking

Published under our Green Corruption programme, this is a case study about a South African fishing company, Hout Bay Fishing Industries, that overfished lobster and other protected fish in deliberate breach of government-established quotas. The case study contains numerous important lessons for those seeking to follow the money in large wildlife trafficking cases.

The extent of unlawful overfishing was such that environmental experts have claimed that lobster numbers in South Africa were in free fall and that the terminal decline was only halted when a criminal investigation commenced, thereby bringing the illicit activities to an abrupt halt. Until then, large quantities of illegally caught lobster and fish in South Africa were exported to the USA and there sold for vast profit.

Despite successful prosecutions in both South Africa (of the fishing company) and the USA (of the principals of the fishing company), there were significant forensic difficulties in tracing profits that were placed in complex offshore trust and company structures. The result was that although there is some evidence that the profits from this enterprise were at least USD 60 million, the total sums recovered by confiscation orders were around USD 20 million.

Open-access licence and acknowledgements

This publication is part of the Basel Institute on Governance Case Study series, ISSN 2813-3900. It is licensed for sharing under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 licence.

The Case Study series offers practitioners insights into interesting and precedent-setting cases involving corruption and asset recovery. This case relates to the Basel Institute's Green Corruption programme.

Suggested citation: Dutot, Caroline. 2021. "Hout Bay and the illegal lobster trade: a case study in recovering illicit proceeds of IUU fishing and wildlife trafficking." Case Study 5, Basel Institute on Governance. Available at:

Cover page of case study 6
Date published
Basel Institute on Governance