United Against Shark Killing Competition

Lesley Rochat Photography - United Against Shark Killing
Blacktip sharks have no protection in South Africa and one of the species the anglers were aiming to catch. Divers from around the world come to the area to dive with these graceful sharks. Their value alive is worth far more than dead. They deserve protection. I received an urgent email on Monday from Roland Mauz of African Dive Adventures requesting my help. A group of anglers were organizing a shark killing event for the 2nd and 3rd October 2010 from Shelly Beach on the south coast of Durban, South Africa. The event, going as a fishing competition, was designed to ‘cull’ what the anglers believe is an overpopulation of sharks on Protea Banks, which they say keep taking their catch.

Reading the email I could have sworn I was suffering from deja vu; in 2007 a similar event was planned, also on the south coast, and AfriOceans was instrumental in helping towards stopping it. Representing AfriOceans, I ran a petition, which spread internationally and within 3 days over 4000 signatures, flooded my inbox. (See this link for the petition details )

I dropped everything and busied myself over the next 24 hours, communicating with various individuals, including one of the competition organizers, Stephanie. I notified Marine and Coastal Management’s (DAFF) Mike Meyer and Chris Wilke, who expressed disapproval of the event, and I drafted a new petition, the tone of which was no different to the 2007 petition. I was about to let the petition go to our data base of a number of thousand, but needed to check my facts one last time. Fortunately my second attempt to speak to Johan, another one of the organizers, was successful.

He confirmed the following: that they planned to use rod and reel, and would tag and release the sharks but would allow each participating boat to kill one shark over the two days of the competition –  so far over 50 boats had entered the competition – that they would target all species except raggies and tigers, mentioning bulls, blacktips, bronzies, and spinners as fair game, and that they would donate cash from the competition to the Cancer Association, and donate the dead sharks to charity organizations, ignoring the fact that the meat of large sharks is unfit for human consumption due to high mercury content.

I brought this to his attention as well as the fact that we as an organization were not happy for any sharks to be killed at all, that they could not take reducing numbers of sharks into their own hands, nor could they expect us to trust that they would in fact be tagging and releasing correctly when we had got wind of their ‘stab and release’ intentions.

I explained to him that though we appreciate their concerns, culling the sharks was not an acceptable solution, particularly given that it was not supported scientifically, that the very sharks they planned to kill were of high ecotourist value, and more importantly of immeasurable value to the ecosystems they supported. Removing them, albeit perceived as an immediate solution, would result in repercussions, which would only exacerbate the problem further. Above all, I explained that given the plummeting populations of sharks worldwide, if they went ahead it would not only result in a national but international outcry which would have severe ramifications for them and advised strongly that they reconsider their intentions. We ended the conversation with him promising to send me the details of the competition.

I was very pleased to receive an email back from Johan shortly after saying: “I’m just informing you that we are busy to call the shark compo off – after we talked it made me realise that it’s not worth targeting them and that we are busy this side to cancel the whole thing. I’ll keep you updated.”

This was a great relief and the efforts of many individuals, to name just a few, Roland Mauz, Grant Smith, Johan Boshoff, Trevor Krull, and Walter Bernardis, proved that united we can make a difference. I slept better that night.  But then this morning I received an email from Roland informing us that though Johan and Stephanie were amenable to reason, notwithstanding pressure from all fronts, and had pulled out of the competition, other fishermen, particularly private, recreational boat owners had indicated that although the competition was formally cancelled, they would continue the plan on a social basis. Their intentions: to kill as many sharks as they can without telling anyone.

Evidently we cannot let our guard down and if necessary I will join Roland to document on video and stills any evidence of unnecessary slaughter should these hardheaded, bigoted individuals proceed with ‘the plan’. Truth is, we are fully aware that clandestine killings of sharks are happening all the time, and that spiteful acts against sharks may occur as a result of this, but now we are much more alert, there are more of us, and our international and media support in this regard is immense. Let’s hope we will not need to call on it further. We appeal to those living in or near the area to please keep your ears to the ground and your eyes on any fishing boats, not only in the first week of October but at all times.

Watch my space!

  1. Amanda BarrattAmanda Barratt09-16-2010

    Lesley, a depraved event; I'm concerned that it may stil go ahead unofficially. Let me know if you need any resources if you do need it.

  2. KimKim09-16-2010

    Lesley. Great work!

  3. Lesley RochatLesley Rochat09-16-2010

    Hi Amanda, thanks for the offer, will definitely call on your help if need be, thanks a million for the offer. Kind regards, Lesley

  4. Lesley RochatLesley Rochat09-17-2010

    My blog is posted on the Divesite website http://www.diversite.co.za and it has attracted a lot of interest from local divers, which I feel is important to share on my direct blog:

    COMMENT FROM OJ: At the end of the day the anglers made the best and most responsible decision here. The scary thing is that shark fishing is 100% legal so what we all need to campaign for now is to change the insane law of a 10 shark quota per angler per day… outrageous!
    Please also note CANSA knew nothing about the compo and have issued a media statement which I will post up here.
    We need to hold a forum with the anglers to work through these issues but well done to all involved with this project – especially the anglers that came to their senses as running the event would have been legal but really irresponsible.
    CANSA media statement:
    Reports of a shark catching competition in aid of the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) have recently surfaced on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast.
    According to Sue Janse van Rensburg, CANSA CEO, it would appear as if the competition organisers have pledged to donate the money raised to CANSA.
    Janse van Rensburg assured the public that CANSA is in no way involved with this competition. “CANSA would never encourage the killing of sharks, nor promote the eating of shark meat,” Janse van Rensburg pointed out.
    She warned of unscrupulous individuals or businesses abusing CANSA’s name and reputation for financial gain, and offered the following advice to make sure the public only support bona fide CANSA-endorsed fundraisers.
    BTW a panel of experts, respected anglers and tourism authorities are planning a meeting with the Protea Banks anglers to discuss a way forward.
    It would be insane of any of the anglers to embark on a self-styled culling mission as the area has been boosted into the national and international media spotlight due to the proposed event.

    COMMENT FROM MIKE FRASER: There has always been conflict at Shelley Beach, between diver groups and fisher-folk, especially certain charter operators, Over the last 5 years or so there has been a significant increase in the numbers of black-tip sharks in many areas. Theories abound, but no-one knows why. This has contributed significantly to the attractiveness of the KZN south coast as an eco-tourist destination and doubtlessly benefitted the economy.

    One can understand the frustration of the fisher-folk as these sharks learn quickly to prey on hooked fish. The response, while not unexpected, is archaic and ill conceived. Thank goodness the diving community has not been passive over the years. Sharks are under dire threat in most parts of the world and it is in our economic and aesthetic interest to preserve a healthy population into the future.

    COMMENT FROM CHANTELLE: This is unacceptable. Of course they are going to do it – how can we help. We need to challenge the fisherman. I totally disagree with this and it upsets me that they think they can get away with it. I dont care if it frustrate the fisherman, they have no right to kill sharks.

    COMMENT FROM YVETTE:This is TERRIBLE!!! i am horrified that people can be so narrow minded and so selfish. To think about the impact that this type of action would have on the eco system under water – its just insane! someone need to educate these idiots!!!
    As lesley stated – we can not let our guard down – maybe this is the exact momentum we require to actually keep up and keep on moving forward with this. An education ot authorities and the public need to be made. Everybody is going 'green' after international awareness was created about global warming and the impact. Maybe a "under water" awareness should be started and should inform people how they can actually be impacted by not taking care of the water life.
    maybe as a interim solution – Carte Blanche is running a new campaign where the are asking the public for input and ideas on the topics. Maybe we can actually get carte blanche to read this piece above and someone give them a call so that we can get the publicity and the necessary awareness for the day???

  5. Tam-tamTam-tam09-20-2010

    This is really TERRIBLE!
    I am so glad they have been stopped!
    They have no write to kill sharks, sharks have feelings just like us! And when some fisherman comes and stabs his knife into a sharks heart ( just for the sake of it, they don't even use the sharks meat for anything, they just kill them for "fun".) that just makes me MAD!
    Even though i am only 12 years old, i feel the adults are to blame. When i am your age, what type of world will i be living in?
    A world over powered by humans, and no animals,witch would have been extinct long ago.
    The only chance i have to enjoy all of these animals, and nature, would be now.
    Because we are losing species every day about 10 a day.
    So yar, help the world be a better place for your children.

  6. Cheryl KingCheryl King09-20-2010

    I want to thank you along with all the other passionate and proactive people who strive to look after our planet. I think if most fisherman were more educated on how valuable our sharks are they would not do such irresponsible things.

  7. Lesley RochatLesley Rochat09-20-2010

    Thanks to everyone who has left a comment, for all the support and thoughts shared. A special thanks to Tam-tam, you are so right, the adults are messing up the world and we owe it to you and all the young people to learn to live gently on our planet. As things stand, I fear the world we are leaving the youth to inherit. The next 10 years are critical in changing the course of self destruction we are on. Education is very important but unfortunately it is often not easy to teach an 'old dog new tricks' especially if the old trick suits him. But stopping the competition was an example of what power we have when we stand united. It really is a war, them (those intent on destruction) and us (those intent on preservation). Let's not forget how each and everyone can make a difference. Our future and that of our children depends on it.

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