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Shark and Oceanic Conservation in General

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Tue Apr 14, 2009 9:23 pm Unread post
Hi there to all you fellow forumites!

We are all nature lovers and nature conservation is and should be high on our agenda, actions and thoughts.

Part of general nature conservation is the conservation of our great oceans and the magnificent mammals, fish, etc that roam our oceans.

One aspect of the conservation of our oceans is shark conservation which is very dear to me.

Sharks are under threat either as a food source, as a result of sport fishing or due to anti-shark measures. Sharks are caught for their fins and this method results in the live animal being cruelly dumped back into the sea after its fins have been hacked off.

The United Nations estimates that internationally only about ten million sharks are harvested each year. Some conservationists, however, put the number at closer to a hundred million!! These are shocking statistics.

The shark-fin industry, concentrated in a few Asian trading centers, is secretive and wary of any attempts to regulate, or even investigate, its practices. To make matters murkier, most fisheries-management groups give little attention to sharks, because they are often considered by-catch…fish caught by accident given their low value per pound.

South African shark nets, put in place to protect mainly surfers and holiday-makers, capture between 800 and 2200 sharks per annum and catches are highest in those years when the sardines move close inshore during winter along the KwaZulu-Natal coast. More sharks are also caught in these nets during floods due to the fact that the dirty water may prevent sharks from detecting and avoiding the nets.

These nets are basically gill nets, indiscriminately catching harmless species, such as dolphins, skates, rays, whales and whale sharks. Shark nets cause irreparable damage to the eco system and need to be replaced by a more environmentally acceptable method. An electrical repellor (the Pod), may replace the gruesome nets. Due to the harsh nature of our coastline, the technology to supply this device with a reliable power source in the ocean is, unfortunately, still years away.

As far as I know the only shark species that is protected in South Africa is the Great White shark.
Ironically, 20 to 50 of this species are caught in South African shark nets each year, probably more than were killed by trophy fishermen before the ban.

People in general have a lot of misconceptions about sharks. The greatest culprit of them all was the film “JAWS”! Misconceptions such as “sharks are roaming the shore lines to catch humans” and “sharks are attracted by as little as a drop of human blood” are common. It is a highly debated question whether human blood attracts sharks at all. Sharks are attracted by fish blood and fish oil and to a great extend by vibrations and electrical impulses though.

Truth of the matter is that only 10 to 15 humans are killed internationally by sharks annually and about 200 are killed by hippos annually!

I had an awesome shark diving trip on The Protea Banks, KwaZulu -Natal, South Africa from 28 March to 4 April 2009. Herewith a few photos of these magnificent creatures roaming our “deep blue”! These photos were taken by Roland Mauz during dives. I don’t own an underwater camera (yet). Enjoy!

Black-tip shark

Image

Image

Hammerhead shark

Image

Tiger shark.

Image

Image

Zambezi shark. This is my favourite shark capable to survive in fresh water as well! These sharks are most of the time escorted by Remora fish also known as the pilot fish.

Image

Image

Image


Some info on the Protea Banks: The reef is located 8 kilometers offshore on the KZN South Coast and is not a proclaimed nature conservation and thus is shared by anglers and scuba divers alike. This reef is well-known as a shark diving spot with regular sightings of Zambezi (Bull), Tiger, Hammerhead, Black-tip, Ragged-tooth (Sand-tigers) sharks and many more. Regrettably it is a well-known fact that game fish anglers catch sharks, removing their jaws for trophy purposes, and dumping the carcasses back into the sea! How tragic. I am of the opinion that we need to protect all shark species.


Last edited by TheunsH on Sun May 24, 2009 12:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Shark Conservation

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Tue Apr 14, 2009 9:27 pm Unread post
Thank you TheunsH...for a most interesting post..... :clap:

I must admit...sharks frighten the heck outta me!!!


Re: Shark Conservation

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Tue Apr 14, 2009 9:31 pm Unread post
Great post TheunsH :clap: :clap:
And great pics too.


Re: Shark Conservation

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Tue Apr 14, 2009 9:45 pm Unread post
Great post.Thanks TheunsH
Love these animals and admire them
If i can muster enough courage i will go in a shark cage on day.

One of the biggest disasters ever to hit sharks was the awesome movie Jaws.
Can still remember while floating on the water on a inflateable mattrass in the south of france after seeing the movie i saw a shadow underneath me and it scared the wits out of me... was of the mattress :redface:
Just to show the impact of the movie.
Unfortunately Great Whites were portraited as huge feeding monsters.
Luckily science,conservation and tourism try their best to proof Steven Spielberg wrong.


Re: Shark Conservation

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Tue Apr 14, 2009 9:52 pm Unread post
Theuns, is shark cage diving also not causing a lot of harm by affecting the behaviour of sharks?

I am of the opinion that all creatures need to be respected and conserved. The earth is surely reliant on all the creatures, big and tiny, to keep the balance of nature.


Re: Shark Conservation

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Tue Apr 14, 2009 9:55 pm Unread post
Although `I hear what you are saying`, and agree with you about conservation of our vulnerable species, I`m with CC in that sharks scare the daylights out of me! Sometimes wonder whether, by making shark dives available to pander to people`s craving for (controlled) excitement and thrills, we are acting somewhat irresponsibly by showing people as `bait` in a way, making sharks more accustomed to humans and possibly less likely to veer off instead of investigating.

Sorry, Dinkybird - same thoughts! I had already clicked to post mine when I saw yours. ok if I leave it in situ?


Re: Shark Conservation

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Tue Apr 14, 2009 10:02 pm Unread post
Please do Scot - you explain it way better than I did!


Re: Shark Conservation

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Wed Apr 15, 2009 1:11 am Unread post
Quote
by making shark dives available to pander to people`s craving for (controlled) excitement and thrills, we are acting somewhat irresponsibly by showing people as `bait` in a way,


Interesting thought Scot, but what most divers don't realise is how often they are actually diving with sharks. Most divers look downwards and very rarely look up and so miss sharks that just cruise by overhead. I guess what I'm saying is that whether the dive is done purposefully to view sharks or not, they are there anyway. I'm coming up close to 1000 plus dives and I would have seen sharks on at least half of those.

One of the best sightings I ever had was on the Aliwal Shoal - my buddy and I were the last two in the group and a 2.5m scalloped hammerhead cruised past about 2 metres from us. We could'nt even snap it as the camera was fitted with a macro lens for the dive!!

Theuns, lets not stop at sharks though, as recreational divers a much greater concerted effort is required to protect our reefs and oceans! They are being destroyed by the hordes of "untrained" new divers who are entering the waters without a real clue as to how to swin on the beautiful reefs without causing damage - much like the speeders and other idjits that are talked about in the Kruger.


Re: Shark Conservation

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Wed Apr 15, 2009 1:52 am Unread post
DinkyBird wrote
Theuns, is shark cage diving also not causing a lot of harm by affecting the behaviour of sharks?

I am of the opinion that all creatures need to be respected and conserved. The earth is surely reliant on all the creatures, big and tiny, to keep the balance of nature.


To put your mind at rest a short answer.....No. It would be easy to think this possible but the fact of the matter is that the bait used by the shark operators is very expensive, unlike the normal train of thought sharks are fussy feeders (my experience is based on great whites only) and not the trashcan of the ocean as we were led to believe, to have the sharks actually eat the bait would be very expensive not to mention against regulation. The shark diving industry has strict rules that dictate behaviour and treatment of sharks and to get a licence is a major task, to lose it simple.

I am aware of studies that has shown that most sharks don't stay in an area for extended periods, normally about three to four weeks so to be habituated in this time would be difficult.

These massive fish are also quite skittish and do not approach humans willy nilly. They have been known to flee from the air bubbles from scuba tanks. I personally think the cages are there to protect the sharks and not the humans. Having had long discussions with operators one point that has been on the forefront is the passion these guys have for the sharks and the dive trips are based on education and conservation rather than entertainment.

Government regulations in this small sector is pretty strict and there are only a certain amount of licences granted with many more applicants waiting to lay their hands on one. The result of this is that the operators toe the line very carefully and do not even venture to sea in a dirty boat.

As apex predators these fish play a crucial role in our marine eco balance and desperately need to be protected. Education is half the battle won.

And finally NO I am not financially involved in the industry and do not punt any one operator, I am just concerned about the plight of sharks and our marine resources in general.


Re: Shark Conservation

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Wed Apr 15, 2009 8:32 am Unread post
Hi to all you shark lovers out there. I have just switch on my computer to have a quick look if anyone has responded to this topic, and I was overwhelmed by all the comments and replies! :thumbs_up:

Thanks CuriousCanadian, p@m, bert, DinkyBird, Scot, Timepilot and Sparks. :clap: :clap:

It's great to see that we have other scuba divers here as well.

I can't wait responding to your posts and will do so ASAP...after my boring meetings. :wall:


Re: Shark Conservation

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Wed Apr 15, 2009 11:50 am Unread post
DinkyBird wrote
Theuns, is shark cage diving also not causing a lot of harm by affecting the behaviour of sharks?


DinkyBird, thanks for your question! I agree with Sparks on this. The answer is no.

In S. A. feeding fish and sharks is against the law, but baiting is permitted. Sharks are not dumb animals, chumming and baiting attracts sharks, the sharks soon learn there is no gain and leave.

Chumming only attracts sharks that are already in the area. Keep in mind that baiting is done a few kilometers offshore and not close to swimming beaches. Protea Banks for instance is 8 kilometers offshore. A very well known shark diving operator in the Western Cape says that "Chumming has got nothing to do with it. We chum with animals that occur naturally. Chum where there are no sharks and you don't get any. We have to show people these animals to ensure their survival. It's no different from viewing leopards and lions."

Shark diving has a vital role to play in re-educating the public and protecting the great white. This is a view shared with those who believe cage diving with sharks can help to improve the animal’s negative public profile.

No compelling evidence to connect shark tourism with an increase in shark attacks exists and in the vast majority of cases, attacks do not take place near shark dive locations.

Shark cage diving is done mostly in the Cape waters and a very popular Great White cage diving spot is Gans-Bay. In the warmer waters of KwaZulu-Natal shark dives are done without cages. Baited dives are done by a baited drum suspended below a surface buoy. The only purpose of baited dives is to get the sharks closer.


Re: Shark Conservation

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Wed Apr 15, 2009 12:43 pm Unread post
Scot wrote
Sometimes wonder whether, by making shark dives available to pander to people`s craving for (controlled) excitement and thrills, we are acting somewhat irresponsibly by showing people as `bait` in a way, making sharks more accustomed to humans and possibly less likely to veer off instead of investigating.


Thanks for the comment Scot.

I think the advantages to conservation by making shark dives available out weight the potential accustoming of sharks to humans. It has never been proven that sharks see humans as prey or bait.

Humans are not part of a shark’s natural prey. During investigations it was found that sharks don't appear to be especially interested in the blood of mammals as opposed to fish blood. Most sharks prefer to eat certain types of invertebrates, fish and other animals. Some sharks eat mainly fish others eat other sharks or marine mammals. Some sharks are even plankton-eaters.

It has never been proven that sharks see humans as prey or bait during baited or non baited dives. In some very rare cases a shark may takes an exploratory bite and leaves its human victim, as humans are not its natural prey. Unfortunately, sharks are very powerful animals and severe damage may occur from such a bite.

It may be this pandering of our craving for controlled excitement and thrills that contributes to nature conservation after all! :thumbs_up:


Re: Shark Conservation

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Wed Apr 15, 2009 1:14 pm Unread post
I would compare free diving with sharks similar to one walking through KNP and cage diving similar to watching lions from your car.
Sharks are wild animals, not much different to the animals one would find on land and when you enter the sea, you enter their habitat. Just like any wild animal, their instincts are triggered by certain circumstances. It has been proven that it is possible to free dive and interact with Great Whites as long as the instinctive hunting mode of the animal is not triggered. Not wise, not safe but possible.
The moment there is an attack, we start looking around to find reasons elsewhere forgetting the basic principals of shark behavior. These are not man hunting monsters but rather wild animals, finely tuned for survival and in desperate need of conservation.

Great topic, Theuns! :thumbs_up:


Re: Shark Conservation

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Wed Apr 15, 2009 1:23 pm Unread post
Timepilot wrote
what most divers don't realise is how often they are actually diving with sharks. Most divers look downwards and very rarely look up and so miss sharks that just cruise by overhead. I guess what I'm saying is that whether the dive is done purposefully to view sharks or not, they are there anyway. I'm coming up close to 1000 plus dives and I would have seen sharks on at least half of those.

One of the best sightings I ever had was on the Aliwal Shoal - my buddy and I were the last two in the group and a 2.5m scalloped hammerhead cruised past about 2 metres from us. We could'nt even snap it as the camera was fitted with a macro lens for the dive!!

Theuns, lets not stop at sharks though, as recreational divers a much greater concerted effort is required to protect our reefs and oceans! They are being destroyed by the hordes of "untrained" new divers who are entering the waters without a real clue as to how to swin on the beautiful reefs without causing damage - much like the speeders and other idjits that are talked about in the Kruger.


Great post Timepilot!

I once saw a program where a few Tiger sharks were tagged and traced by satellite on the Aliwal Shoal. At one point a few of them were traced swimming in the close vicinity of about 20 scuba divers. Afterwards the divers were asked if they had seen the sharks….NONE of them had!

My brother and I had a few dives at the Tsitsikamma National Park a few years ago. While diving and viewing a few Smooth Hound sharks on the bottom, other holiday-makers were swimming with their “boogy-boards” on the surface totally unaware of us and the sharks. In any case I don’t think those sharks were any threat to the swimmers though. :lol:

Awesome sighting of the scalloped hammerhead Timepilot. :clap: :clap:

You have an excellent point on the damage caused by divers not knowing how to enjoy the reefs without causing damage. I’ve seen many new divers having problems controlling their buoyancy smashing in and holding on to the reefs causing damage!


Re: Shark Conservation

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Wed Apr 15, 2009 2:09 pm Unread post
JenB wrote
I would compare free diving with sharks similar to one walking through KNP and cage diving similar to watching lions from your car.

These are not man hunting monsters but rather wild animals, finely tuned for survival and in desperate need of conservation.


Thanks for your comments JenB. :clap:

I agree hundred percent with your comparisons. I haven’t done a cage dive yet and I don’t think I’m interested in doing cage diving. I prefer doing a non-cage shark dive (Scuba) of which I have done 26 the past 5 years on the Protea Banks. Only 2 of those 26 dives were baited dives and 24 were non-baited dives. Furthermore I prefer non-baited dives and during all of those 24 non-baited dives we saw sharks!

One aspect relating to your comparison though…Getting from the boat to view sharks is no problem for me but getting out of my car to go and take a few close-ups of lions is another story. I have a far greater fear (Let me rather calls it respect) for say lions than sharks. :lol: :lol:

You are correct in saying that sharks are not hunting monsters, all shark divers are living proof of that! :thumbs_up:
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