Agricultural spokesman Lionel Adendorf said the illegally-harvested perlemoen had been shipped from South Africa to Hong Kong, but was confiscated by that country’s custom officials on March 10.
“This was the first consignment to return to South Africa after it has docked,” he said.
He said the perlemoen (also known as abalone) weighed more than 2627kg. It docked in the Cape Town harbour at the weekend.
Details of the seizure in Hong Kong were not immediately clear.
However, Adendorf said it had been agreed by both countries that the perlemoen be returned to South Africa.
“The department took possession of the perlemoen... It’s being kept in our storeroom,” he said.
Adendorf said a man had been arrested in Hong Kong and fined US45,000 (about R340,000).
No arrests had been made in South Africa, but the matter would be investigated further.
More than 500,000 units of perlemoen destined for the East have been confiscated since 2007.
Adendorf said the department, working with the police, the National Prosecuting Authority and the SA Revenue Services, had had three other consignments turned back to South Africa while en route to the East.