Local fishermen and shark tour operators are at each others necks after tourists were exposed to four sharks being killed right in front of them on cage diving excursion.
The incident took place in Gansbaai on Wednesday, February 19. A boat took to sea with a tour group preparing for a shark cage diving experience. Tourists aboard the boat were shocked as men aboard a fishing boat began capturing and killing bronze whaler sharks in front of them.
News of the intense scenes of the sharks being killed prompted the Great White Shark Foundation to take a stand against the senseless killings.
Fishermen in the area prey on the small population of bronze whaler sharks, also known as copper sharks. These marine animals are the only thing keeping shark-diving tourists companies in the area afloat, as great whites have left the area almost completely.
While many are concerned about the activities of fishermen, it is completely legal for them to capture and kill bronze whaler sharks under South Africa’s current laws.
“In a pro-active effort to avoid conflict, the GWSPF approached the then-Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries, to propose a small exclusion zone for the fishing of bronze whaler sharks. In a letter dated August 2019 Minister Barbara Creecy, the Minister of the newly combined Department of the Environment, Forestry and Fisheries indicated that she has instructed her department to commence with a multi-stakeholder meeting to discuss the proposal from GWSPF. Operators were hopeful that a compromise solution would be found but this never happened,” says Wilfred Chivell, owner of Marine Dynamics.
Cage diving operators in the area employ roughly 250 people and indirectly support 1 600 dependants according to Chivell. With nine operators in the area they cater to more than 85 000 tourists each year.
“Our companies invest millions in infrastructure and marketing that benefits the entire tourism industry in the Western Cape. We know that travellers base their decision on where to stay on the activities available in an area. Shark cage diving is one of those key activities,” comments Chivell.
The community is concerned for their future as fisherman can make up to R20 000 from killing sharks, in comparison to the millions that the shark cage diving industry makes. The latter, however, plays an important role in being a non-consumptive, informative and low impact industry that benefits the local economy. This all hangs in the balance as sharks are continue to be killed.
Those looking to support the cause can sign the petition to save shark eco-tourism in Gansbaai here.
Feature Picture: Marine Dynamics