Shark Conservation and protection
South Africa was the first country to protect the great white shark in 1991.
The result of the protection is that of the cage diving industry.
In 1998, the Bill to re-open Great White Sharks to commercial fishing was tabled, and the government decided to dismiss the application and collect revenue from cage diving.
At the moment there are 12 licensed cage diving operators in South Africa. To date there are only 2 ways to save these apex predators from human slaughter. One is to make these legendary creatures a living resource (worth more alive than dead). Gansbaai’s cage diving industry is the biggest success story for white shark conservation worldwide, resulting in numerous other shark diving businesses arising from the success story of Gansbaai.
The South African Government is now looking into marketing the big seven (Lion, Elephant, Buffalo, Leopard, Rhino, Sharks, and Whales) in a bid to try and save these animals from extinction, proving that eco-tourism can and do work.
The second is education. People have a tendency and natural inclination to fear the unknown. The word shark comes from a German word for which the direct English translation is “villain”. In 1778 an artist painted a work depicting a boy being bitten by a shark as people in a rowing boat try to save him. These images of that time were the equivalent of CNN today, as paintings were taken from town to town and the tale told again and again.
Peter Benchly with his book “Jaws” triggered a fundamental and ingrained fear in humans that led to a worldwide persecution of the Great White Shark. The other result of this movie was a new awareness that made the Great White Shark a household name.
One of the best ways to combat ignorance and fear of the unknown is by education and conservation-minded shark documentaries and movies. (Great White Shark – A Living Legend, Sharkman, Beyond Fear and Shark Nights)
Even in this day and age, in South Africa, the first country to protect the great white shark, the Department of Environmental Affairs: Branch - Oceans and Coasts, Republic of South Africa, still issues permits to the Natal Sharks Board and allow them to use Gill nets / Shark nets to actively target predatory sharks, especially the Great White Shark. The Shark Board’s protection through eradication policy has led to huge, irrevocable and untold destruction of the animal life along the Southern African coastline.
This practice is economically motivated as towns where shark nets are present are more popular and profitable as tourist destinations than towns without nets. The best way to combat this practice and aid in conservation is to avoid and not to spend money in towns where shark nets are present.
Through research done by the the Department of Environmental Affairs: Branch - Oceans and Coasts, Republic of South Africa, and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in 2004 the Great White Shark got a C.I.T.E.S appendix 2 listing, listing these animals as vulnerable and emphasizing the need for White Shark products to be monitored and declared. The Great White Shark is the first predatory fish to get a C.I.T.E.S appendix 2 status.
Threats to the Great White Sharks in order of severity of impact are:
- Shark Nets
- Teeth Trade, illegal harvesting and catching of sharks to sell their teeth, unfortunately this is an industry that is fuelled by so-called shark enthusiasts, who do not consider or understand that an animal must die in order for its teeth to be for sale. The biggest jaw ever sold in was in South Africa, and was bought by Michael Flately, an intern that apparently donated 30 000 Pounds to the Fisherman's Retirement Fund. This led to other fishermen actively pursuing sharks in the event that another ignorant and uninformed person happened along. Help the sharks, do not buy any shark products!
- Trophy fishing or fishing competitions, sharks are very vulnerable to lactic acid and when caught, will in most cases die, even when released due to the fact that they cannot rid themselves of the lactic acid and become too tired to swim, and in most cases they go and lie on the bottom of the ocean to die.
- Shark-fin soup. Sharks are being harvested solely for their fins in order to make shark-fin soup.
What we do:
- We do not support towns with shark nets.
- We educate people, so that they are more informed and hopefully lose their fear of these incredible animals, by way of documentaries, worldwide educational talks, conferences and Shark Cage Diving.
- We are making them worth more alive than dead.
- We support all legitimate research done by the the Department of Environmental Affairs: Branch - Oceans and Coasts, Republic of South Africa, free of charge.
What you can do:
- Don’t buy shark products
- Don’t support towns with shark nets
- Report suspicious activities and document them with photos – the Department of Environmental Affairs: Branch - Oceans and Coasts, Republic of South Africa, newspapers, Shark Diving Unlimited
- Dive with them, experience them and increase your knowledge so that you in turn can educate and teach others about sharks.