Monday, July 11, 2011

On Lesley Rochat, AfriOceans, and the South African sharks.

I have to confess that I was not aware of Lesley Rochat's initiative when I wrote my recent blog about the mortal dangers South Africa's most endangered sharks are facing.

Whoever is familiar with the shark world in South Africa knows Lesley Rochat. This petite and strong-willed lady has got to be one of the most versatile shark-minded individuals I have ever met: She is a writer, public speaker, a photographer, an accomplished filmmaker, the founder and Executive Director of AfriOceans Conservat
ion Alliance, a highly visible and active shark conservation non-profit organization.

Lesley Rochat is above all a most passionate lover and dependable advocate of sharks.

Lesley in her element - and in a yellow wet suit, effectively proving that sharks don't mind the "yum-yum" color, yet another myth some shark pros still cling to...
Photo: Mike Ellis (2011)
Click on image to enlarge

Read this link, and you will know what Lesley has been doing to start the kind of ad-hoc movement I had in mind to protect the sharks in South African waters:

Let me emphasize what she wrote:

"We are a small organization with limited resources and staff. We, however, with the support of our well-respected Board of Directors, have the experience to drive a process of this nature.

We therefore urge all those who have an interest in the ocean, as well as all shark diving operators, and SCUBA diving operators in general along the South African coast, to put back into the very resource they depend upon and work with us and assist us in whatever way possible, including in raising funds required to drive this lobbying campaign to conclusion.
We are open to sharing our lobbying intentions in detail with any interested parties, including other NPOs, forming collaborations and partnerships with all who wish to constructively assist us with time, money or expertise.

We tire of Industry politics and personal agendas, which consume energy while our sharks continue to be slaughtered. We hope the industry at large will support us because losing our sharks matters to all of us."

Need I say more? Lesley confirms what I felt in my gut. I am glad she candidly put on record what seems to be a major obstacle within the shark community in South Africa: The seeming unwillingness or perhaps just plain indifference of all those concerned to finally unite and make their interests a firmly articulated common cause vis-a-vis the authorities.

With reference to my blog on behalf of the sharks in South Africa, here is what Lesley said, in her very own words:

"... trying to get organisations and people to work together will take too long and our sharks can’t wait. Sadly there appears to be too many personal agendas, pseudo conservationists, egos, and lack of real caring.Since we sent our newsletter and posted the WANTED! DEAD or ALIVE? lobbying campaign over 3 months ago requesting help, apart from a few caring individuals making donations, our invite to join us in saving our sharks has not been taken up by other local groups.At this stage, AfriOceans is the only organisation in South Africa that is driving this matter forward.

Therefore, I propose that the horse that is already running the race is backed, and that AfriOceans is assisted in winning this fight. Apart from our petition with over 6000 signatures, we have already made contact with the Minister and will revert on progress."

This makes a lot of sense to me, which is why promoting internationally what AfriOceans is already doing seems to be the best bet under the circumstances.

Go here to find out how you can help AfriOceans, and also stand a chance to win a cowshark dive for two or a signed copy of Dr. Leonard Compagno’s book: "Sharks of the World":

As far as the local scene is concerned, I can only hope that all the shark dive operators along the coast of South Africa, the conservation groups, the countless individuals who love the sea and its creatures will join AfriOceans in its ongoing fight for the protection of the beautiful and precious sharks that make South Africa a "mecca" for shark diving, especially its most vulnerable sharks, paradoxically also the most feared ones: The majestic 'Sharks of Sharks', the great white sharks, and my favorites, the awe-inspiring, strikingly gentle and charismatic Tiger Sharks of Aliwal Shoal.

Female tiger shark of Aliwal Shoal - she needs more than getting stroked on her head...
Photo: Wolfgang Leander (2008)
Click on image to enlarge

1 comment:

Megan Frances Abrahams said...

It's great you're raising awareness about this important situation, Wolfgang. Hoods off to Lesley Rochat!