When we heard that Western Australians Premier, Colin Barnett, aptly called Cullin Barnett, would be in Cape Town to attend a mining conference we realized it was a fantastic opportunity to not only support the #NoSharkCull campaign in Western Australia where 72 drumlines have been placed to cull sharks, but also to bring attention back to our very own problems in South Africa. The KZN Sharks Board have been culling our sharks and other marine life since the 1950s using the very same devices, drumlines, in addition to shark nets – they kill +/- 600 sharks a year (that we know of – this is the figure on their website, I have thus taken the liberty to round it off) and hundreds of other marine life, including dolphins and turtles. We felt it would be hypocritical of us not to draw attention to the fact that shark culling is happening every day in our waters and has been for decades. Initially we had planned to go on our own and join any others who wanted to voice their opinion on the day but was pleased when Sharon Martin helped by creating an event, and with all of us sharing it on social media, the numbers grew.
It was fantastic to see the turnout upon our arrival, 100 people or more standing across the road from the Cape Town International Conference Centre at which Cullin was giving a talk. Everyone had made an effort with great placards and strong messages, which they were holding up. Our plan had never been to stand around quietly so in our true style of being The Voice of Our Oceans, Terry Corr and I began chanting: STOP THE SLAUGHTER, SAVE OUR SHARKS, and soon enough everyone joined in. Other chants we initiated were BAN DRUMLINES NOW, CULLIN IS A COWARD, CULLIN MUST GO!
Since the rally permit was for an area a block away from the Convention Centre, the cops insisted we move – this however gave us an opportunity to chant and attract more attention from the general public as we walked. Around this time I ran back to our car to get some t-shirts we had forgotten behind for some of our team who had joined us. It was then that Chris Fallows together with Terry Corr decided to take the gap, do an about turn, and head for the entrance of the Convention Centre – after all that’s where we needed to be. Running back I saw Terry leading the protest, carrying two placards, mine included, across the main road and to the entrance of the Centre. Catching up at the entrance I grabbed my placard and together with the others we continued to chant CULLIN MUST GO, STOP THE SLAUGHTER, SAVE OUR SHARKS, SHARKS HAVE RIGHTS, until we were threatened by the police with arrest for illegal protesting (not the spot they had agreed on in our permit), and forced to move off, very, very, reluctantly. We did try a second time to return but by then they had set their eyes on a few of us, the instigators I think they call people like us.
All in all it was a great rally, we made our point, we let our voices be heard, and we did the right thing, we fought for our sharks in Australia and at home, in South Africa. It was really good to see some familiar faces which included longtime shark conservationists Chris Fallows and Kim Maclean, also both white shark cage diving operators, as well as white shark researcher Alison Towner and shark expert, Dr Leonard Compagno.
A few other shark operators were there but with all the action I did not see everyone. I did notice that students and employees represented some other well-known shark operators who had traveled a number of hours to get to the rally, but I was disappointed that those operators had not made the effort to be at the rally themselves. I was also disappointed that some key shark researchers were also absent – there is a rumor that relationships with the Sharks Board made it difficult, but this I cannot verify. But I do know that some high profile shark people in Cape Town, scientists, shark operators, shark conservationists, and ocean advocates, were missing – I hope when I bump into you, you’ll have a very good reason for missing it. The thing is, most of these people I am talking about make their money one way or the other from the oceans or sharks and often have a lot to say in the press about this or that, yet they were absent. I find that lacks integrity. I’m also busy, also run a business, a production company and a non profit organization and I personally was making placards till late the night before. I recognized that this rally was a significant opportunity for us to take an example from the Australians and stand united against what we all abhor, the senseless slaughter of our sharks, not only in Australia but in our own front yard.
Come on South Africans, choose whose side you are on and let’s follow suit, let’s put aside egos, differences of which there is too much going on when it comes to sharks in the country, and let’s remember what we all doing this for, something much greater than ourselves. Earth, Mother Gaia is fragile and suffering – critical environmental times are upon us where the senseless loss of each and every living creature we share this planet with is having terrifying impacts on us all – we may not feel it right now, but its happening and it’s only a matter time. Unless of course, we ACT NOW!
For us #SharkWars has begun – its a battle against the injustice and cruelty inflicted upon our sharks and other marine life, a fight we can only win through our collective power. Together we are mighty and powerful, together we can stop the slaughter and save our sharks!
Thank you to the Australians for caring about our sharks in their waters and showing us how pulling together is done, to everyone who organised and attended, to our own Shark Warrior supporters who shouted till their throats hurt, to leader of the protest pack Terry Corr – I am proud of you, to the media for helping us raise awareness, to Dr Leonard Compagno, world renowned shark expert and human being extraordinary who was our personal photographer, and our cameraman Grant Atkinson – you all rock!
Watch my space!
PS: Any digs at me touching the tiger shark, please keep – no more time for that one now.