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 ?? ....


Jupp said...

It is time to save the sharks. As my friend Wolfgang Leander likes to put it: "How can we save the planet if we cannot even save the sharks?" It is hard to understand that politicians in many so called civilized countries are not even willing to listen to the experts, who are warning about the demise of sharks and the implication and impact that will have on our oceans. The oceans are our life support system; are we going to watch how they are being endangered by the demise of sharks? Don't our representatives have the guts to stand up and do something now? I am also thinking about the nets in South Africa. Everybody who knows anything about sharks and the ocean should work for their removal. I have never heard of nets being used to keep lions and polar bears away from people so why is that deadly practice used against sharks? Just so we can swim and play in the ocean? We should be smarter than that. The nets don't even work as we all know. I can only hope that one day very soon some politicians will finally get off their behinds and start thinking about what really needs to be done. Maybe that's wishful thinking but if we don't have any politicians like that, what are they good for in the first place?

George said...

I don't even know what to say here... I'm just sick to my stomach.

Scot said...

As an avid diver and long time shark enthusiast, I have had the opportunity to dive with several species of sharks worldwide. I currently live on the west coast of Canada and am embarking on and independent research project to validate species and numbers of sharks in our coastal waters. I have educated my children in Canada, South Africa, and the Caribbean abpout the importance of sharks to the marine ecosystems. The sheer lack of education of these poachers and fin traders is deplorable. I agree that we must do something to educate the people and rally to encourage the governments to stand up and protect these animals at a global level in order to maintain the ecological balance of our oceans.

Shark Diver said...

Hi Wolf,

Thanks once again for bringing the "red meat" to the table. Those numbers are catastrophic. Is there any local media on it?

Have regional operators documented this and are there images?

I want to run with this but without a story and just rumor to work with it's hard to take a bite out of it.

I think with some images or even video this story could do a lot of good, let's get what we need locally so we can push from the outside.

There's some great folks with cameras in S.A, all it takes is time.

Wolfgang Leander said...

Thanks, Patric. I knew I can count with you, as always.

I don't have relevant data and / or visual documents yet. Once I do, you'll be the first to know.