Wednesday, July 06, 2011

It was a one-to-nil score for the sharks in the Bahamas...

... thanks to the relentless efforts of the PEW Environment Group and the Bahamas National Trust along with countless committed individuals, both Bahamians and foreigners, who voiced their concerns about the imminent danger the Bahamian sharks were facing.

The Bahamas has now made its waters a sanctuary for sharks.

These are excellent news to start the 2011 summer, indeed. The Bahamian government deserves much recognition for closing ranks with other nations which already banned all types of shark fishing activities.

Since the Bahamas took that praise-worthy step forward, most other, if not all, Caribbean nations are likely to follow suit. The result will be nothing short of transcendental for the entire region, and beyond.

What makes me personally very happy, apart from the over-arching importance of this historic enactment, is the comforting knowledge that the tiger sharks of Tiger Beach won't be exposed to the danger of being killed by poachers, and commercial or recreational fishermen anymore.

Bahamian tiger shark: Fortunately out of the danger zone!
Photo: Wolfgang Leander (Tiger Beach, 2009)
Click to enlarge

Which immediately leads my thoughts to the tiger sharks of South Africa.

Now that their Bahamian cousins are safe, it hurts me all the more to know that the South African tiger sharks will be the losers as they are being wiped out in
the KNZ coast for the reasons stated in a recent blog.

We should make no mistake: World famous tiger shark diving around Umkomaas and Scottburgh (Aliwal Shoal) could soon be gone, perhaps forever. Unless, of course, the South African authorities will step in swiftly and boldly, and do what their Bahamians colleagues did. However, they won't do it of their own accord. Like any other government they will have to be motivated.

South African freediving champion Hanli Prinsloo gracefully playing with an Aliwal Shoal tiger shark - soon a spectacle of the past?

Photo: Wolfgang Leander (South Africa, 2010)
Click to enlarge

Here is what I wrote to a few South African friends about one week ago:

"Dear friends:

Let's not beat around the bush: The good old days of tiger shark diving in Aliwal Shoal appear to be over. What a tragedy!!!

On the other hand, there is hope that the Bahamas will fully, and effectively, protect their sharks...

During the last years, Tiger Beach (Bahamas) and Aliwal Shoal were the only places where you would find me.

Unfortunately, it seems to be very difficult, if not impossible, to drum up individuals, non-profits and the local shark operators to see what we, as an ad-hoc group, could do to induce the South African authorities to finally address the issue of shark protection whole-heartedly... That is almost as depressing as the deadly perils the South African sharks are facing...

Just as a friend of mine wrote me only a few minutes ago:

".....I am sorry to hear the travails of your efforts and that of others with unresponsive, irrational, and irresponsible governments, like the South Africa situation. I am sorry, but I think this world is going to hell in a hand basket at our hands!"

Back to the Bahamas: I am aware of the arduous work Jill Hepp and Matt Rand of the PEW as well as the staff of the Bahamas National Trust had to do to convince the Bahamian authorities that shark conservation makes a lot of sense not "just" environmentally speaking but also in terms of tourist dollars and cents, but I was not really that surprised to hear that good-will, reason, and responsible governance ultimately prevailed.

I actually anticipated the fantastic outcome of the shark conservation move in the Bahamas knowing by first hand experience how "things" work in that country which is not something I can say about South Africa.

In fact, I know very little about South Africa - however, my gut feeling tells me that it is a very tribal society where it is difficult to rally large groups of people to fight for a common cause. Strange, I would have expected quite the opposite, a kind of a frontier spirit, more civic courage, a lot more, courage in general, at least among the more 'enlightened' people.

Anyway, instead of trying to speculate why it does not seem possible for so-called activists and those with a vested interest in the South African shark dive "industry" to band together in order to make themselves heard loudly, I should like to ask those friendly blog-readers who are familiar with South Africa and its inner workings to tell me what they believe needs to be done to get the ball rolling.

The goal is quite clear: The South African tiger sharks and other endangered sharks species should be afforded full legal protection. And they should not get trapped, and killed, in the senseless Natal Sharks Board nets anymore.

After all, South African Sharks should not score lower than those in the Bahamian Sea - one-to-nil!!

Justify Full


Mark Harding said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark Harding said...

Good News Wolf. For many of us independent voices, and forces out there, you are one of prime movers within this group of dedicated shark conservationists. If it were not for your stoic dedication, how many would have gone unheard in this fight? I know I wrote my letter to the Bahamas, as a result of seeing your words on the subject. I know there are many more.

Viva Wonkismo!!