ENVIRONMENTAL Affairs officials confiscated a rubber duck boat yesterday following an early morning rescue near the marine protected area at Bird Island.
It is believed the six men on board had been diving in the reserve when their boat’s engine seized at about 3.30am.
The NSRI was dispatched after the boat owner – who was waiting on land – was alerted by the crew that they were unable to start the engine.
"We got the distress call and activated our team who set out to sea moments later. At the time we were concerned that the rubber duck would drift into an area that was not accessible by boat,” NSRI station commander Ian Gray said.
"As a precautionary measure we alerted the police air wing to be on standby. Shortly after arriving in the vicinity, we saw the flare and located all six men on the boat.”
Gray said the six were then brought ashore aboard the NSRI rescue craft while another rescue vessel towed the boat to the harbour.
"On the way out the sea conditions were fairly calm but during the return trip we encountered an increasing sea state with swells up to 3m. This slowed the return trip.”
Environmental Affairs officials from South African National Parks, who were waiting in the harbour, confiscated the rubber duck and diving gear on board. The boat will be taken for DNA testing to establish if it had transported perlemoen.
SANParks spokeswoman Megan Taplin said the boat and equipment were confiscated because the men were found in a marine protected area without permission.
"We have confiscated devices on board that will show us if they drifted into the area,” she said.
Taplin said arrests would only be made based on the outcome of the investigation.