Saturday, June 25, 2011

Requiem for South Africa's requiem sharks?

Is this barbarousness really happening in South Africa as claimed by a prominent great white shark operator?

The latest news I heard from a friend in South Africa are truly alarming: Great whites sharks and large tiger sharks being killed for their jaws.

This is what my friend Al Venter wrote me a few days ago:

"....There has been a lot of poaching both of tiger sharks in the warmer waters north and south of Durban and also of great whites in the Cape area.

The reason is that there are numerous trophy hunters (mainly in the US) who are prepared to pay $100,000 for a set of jaws taken from a large shark in the four-metre range.

We dived with shark specialist Mike Rutzen from one o
f his boats east of Cape Town at Easter and he told me that in January alone, he was aware of 13 great whites that had been illegally taken. For him (and the other companies operating out of Kleinbaai) this is a catastrophe because the numbers of whites being viewed by customers have thinned markedly.

The bottom line here is that if things go on like this, boat operators who offer their clients the opportunity of viewing sharks from up close are going to go out of business."

Sharks rapidly disappearing; shark dive operators having to
look for options to make a living; the potential loss of several millions of tourism dollars - a grim scenario, indeed.

What I can say at this point is that last year I could see for myself that the numbers of tiger sharks in Aliwal Shoal were considerably lower than in the previous three years.

A well known free-diver has not seen one single t
iger shark during his 12-day stay in the Aliwal Shoal area earlier this year, supposedly the best time for tiger shark encounters.

To me, and others, the reasons for the drastic decline of the tiger populations in the Durban area are pretty clear:

- The shark nets are taking their toll, implacably. Last year, just one week before I arrived in Scottburgh (Aliwal Shoal) six (!!) tiger sharks got entangled, and killed, in the infamous nets. Nobody really knows how many tiger sharks are being netted each year - more than three dozens would't be too unrealistic a guess.

- Even though Aliwal Shoal is a Marine Protected Area,
reckless fishermen have contributed to the decimation of the tiger sharks by catching them clandestinely.

- And now the trophy hunters...

I understand that some local folks are working "behind the scenes" trying to induce the government to effectively enforce the protection of their sharks.

That type of lobbying is not enough.

NOW is the time to act collectively leaving personal interests and "agendas" behind, and form a solid and outspoken ad-hoc alliance of conservation organizations, shark dive operators, concerned individuals to convince the government of South Africa that they should follow the shining example of other maritime nations, and enact a total ban on shark fishing, both commercial and recreational.

Our magnificent Aliwal Shoal tiger sharks - just look at them closely, and you will realize why we shark lovers have established a mysterious bond with them.

Click on images to enlarge.

I photographed these sharks in 2007 and 2008.

It hurts to imagine that they are all probably dead by now: For their fins, for their jaws, victims of human cruelty, greed, and utter baseness.

How can we save our planet if we can't even save our sharks ?? ....