South Africa: Paddle out for Sharks in KZN
Press ReleaseBy Cormac McCreesh and Amanda Barratt, Photo Credit: Allen Walker.
At first light on the 6th of May 2012, over 100 people gathered on dive boats, jet skis and surfboards at the shark nets off Scottburgh. In the surfer’s tradition of a “paddle out” the gathered community honoured animals that have died in shark nets in KwaZulu-Natal South Africa since the 1950’s, most recent of which were 5 tiger and 1 white shark.
The KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board is mandated to protect this, and other beaches, from shark attack and they choose to use nets to create a barrier between sharks and bathers. However, these nets catch not only sharks, but also whales and other large marine animals such as dolphins, turtles, rays and mantas. The Scottburgh nets fall within the Aliwal Shoal Marine Protected Area.
These nets have long been the focus of marine conservationists and the local dive operators, who argue that the nets are indiscriminate in the marine life netted and have an irreversible impact on shark numbers. Sharks are animals that have been demonstrated to be necessary for maintaining healthy oceans.
Emotions were at a high, with many present signifying their disagreement to the presence of nets in their choice of apparel. In addition to honouring the animals that have died those gathered at the paddle out stood together to express their hope for a new beginning – towards a future where shark nets are no longer needed, where a better way to protect bathers has been found and where sharks are protected too.
This was the first time that the diving and marine conservation community stood together to demonstrate their concern about the nets and their resolve to find a solution to the problem. Flowers were cast onto the water and several individuals took the opportunity to express their personal feelings and hopes.
The dive operators then set off with their clients to enjoy the splendour of the Aliwal Shoal Marine Protected Area, but the paddle out closed on a gloomy note when a ray, with visible lesions, from struggling to free itself from the nets, was found dead.
However, the participants of the ceremony are firm that the presence of so many concerned individuals speaks volumes and has drawn attention to the nets, and that the positive energy played out at the ceremony would be garnered to engage the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board.
The event was made possible by the following dive operators: African Watersports, Agulhas House and Diving, Aliwal Shoal Adventures, Aqua Rush, Blue Vision, Blue Wilderness, Diving in Africa, Oceanworx, The Shoal, Umkomaas Lodge Dive Charter.
Fast Facts (source KZN Sharks Board website, shark.co.za )
- 1/3 of sharks caught in the nets are caught on the beach side of the nets i.e. these sharks are caught inside the nets.
- Nets are laid in two parallel rows approximately 400 metres offshore and in depths of 10 to 14 metres
- The nets are open to the sea and do not enclose a beach area. Sharks can swim over, under or around the ends of the nets.
- Nets function by reducing shark numbers in the vicinity of protected beaches.
- Nets have a limited physical barrier effect.
- Nets are serviced Monday through Friday. They are not serviced over weekends, which are high-bather utilisation times. It follows that animals caught in the nets after servicing of the nets on a Friday will remain in the nets until Monday. This means the caught animal will die and possibly even serve as an attraction to sharks in the area.
Video : PADDLE-OUT 4 SHARKS