These majestic animals are a massive eco-tourist attraction in the area and killing them can be compared to the slaughter of lions – a tragic loss of one of nature's awesome creations.
Tiger sharks have limited protection in the Marine Protected Area (MPA) of Aliwal Shoal where divers from around the world come to see them. Although the fisherman claims he caught the sharks outside the MPA (he was seen earlier that day fishing within the MPA area), he landed them in the MPA, which is against the law. As a result of eye witness reports, followed by public outcry, the fisherman is in the process of being charged.
It is suspected that a further five Tiger sharks were killed previously this year. This is a serious blow as dive operators report identifying only about 20 to 30 different large Tiger sharks during a season.
South Africa is considered a shark diving Mecca of the world and Aliwal Shoal is one of the shark diving hotspots of the country. Every year thousands of tourists come to South Africa to have a unique diving experience with some of the oceans top predators. This eco-tourist industry brings in millions of rands of revenue, and provides job opportunities in a country with a high unemployment rate.
It is estimated that Tiger shark diving in Aliwal Shoal generated over R18 million (USA$2,5 million) during 2007, while White shark cage diving in Gansbaai alone generates approximately R289 million per annum (USA$40 million). One Ragged-tooth shark is estimated to be worth R50 000 per annum (USA$7 000) and can live for 40 years or more. In its lifetime it is therefore worth approximately R2 250 000 (USA$310 000). This same shark if slaughtered will fetch only R1 000 once off (USA$140 – shark meat, depending on size and species, is worth only between R3-R18 per kilogram – USA$40c-2,5). Quite evidently the socio-economic value of a live shark far outweighs the value of a dead shark and the loss of any one of these species will therefore have severe impacts.
Despite this, of the over 200 different species of shark found in South African waters, only White sharks, Whale sharks and Basking sharks are fully protected. All other species may be legally caught and killed. Ragged-tooth sharks, Tiger sharks and Bull sharks have limited protection within MPAs. This limited protection of so few species is of little help since these animals know no boundaries and therefore remain vulnerable outside MPAs. Added to this, this protection is of little use when the existing laws are not adequately enforced.
The South African government owes it to its citizens, the world and future generations to protect its natural resources, as well as to support the lucrative and high profile shark ecotourism industry, including those who depend upon it for their livelihood.
- We therefore demand that the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Mr. Marthinus Van Schalkwyk, ensures that Marine and Coastal Management (MCM) immediately improves protection of the following sharks of high eco-tourist value in the following ways:
- Tiger sharks, Ragged-tooth sharks, Bull sharks and Cow sharks may not, under any circumstances, recreational or commercial, be slaughtered and if caught they must be released – this protection is to apply not only in all MPAs but in all South African waters;
- Hammerhead sharks are given MPA protection (they may not be caught or landed in all MPAs);
- Blacktip sharks, Bronze whaler sharks and Dusky sharks are given protection within the Aliwal Shoal MPA (they may not be caught or landed in the Aliwal Shoal MPA)
- Scientific research is implemented in order to set sustainable quotas that will ensure the conservation of the Blacktip shark, Bronze whaler shark and Dusky shark, added to this;
- The Demersal Longline Fishery may never be allowed to extend beyond East London in order to restrict catches of the Blacktip shark, Bronze whaler shark and Dusky shark;
- Drumlines, or any similar baited device that aims to target, catch and/or kill any large shark are declared illegal fishing devices throughout South African waters;
- MCM's compliance department immediately launches tangible measures to adequately enforce laws for currently protected shark species both in and out of MPAs.
We cannot wait for government to do something – it will simply be too late. We therefore implore you to help us save our sharks. Our power collectively must not be underestimated if we are to ensure the survival of the rest of our Tiger shark population as well as that of other species we are privileged to still be seeing in our oceans. If you support this petition then please take the following simple steps – your signature will help:
- You can either log onto www.aoca.org.za and go to the petition link in the navigation bar and follow the instructions
- Alternatively you can email AOCA directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and write your own comments. Be sure to write in the subject line: Support of AOCA Petition for Protection of SA Sharks.