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Shark Bytes

October & November 2011 Shark Bytes

written by Monique Fallows

Posted on Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Dear Shark Lovers


October and November are normally our least sharky months of the year. The Great Whites would have departed Seal Island for the year and bane of our existence, The South East winds normally arrive. This wind is nearly always gale force and makes any sort of sea activity very difficult!

As such Chris & I try to do other wildlife trips and these have kept us away from Cape Town for the last 2 months.

The images in this edition are from our recent trips to Namibia and Botswana. I would like to say a very big thank you to Wilderness Safaris for hosting us as well as Helena’s team at Savuti and Virgil’s team at Kings Pool for their great hospitality! We have also done a couple of pelagic trips and spent a few days the Great white sharks in Gansbaai. All our news is below.


Good News for Sharks

One of the best things I have done the last little while has not been at sea or in the bush but actually sitting behind my computer! As I am sure you are aware there have been a number of shark attacks recently, one in South Africa and a couple in Australia. These tragic events are almost always followed by negative press for sharks. I got me thinking that I should look for some more positive news from the last 18 months and decided to put it all on one piece of paper. Even though I get the news all the time it made quite an impact on me seeing it all in one place. I hope the below helps you to feel positive too.


A number of shark sanctuaries or shark protected areas have been created, legislation in numerous important cities has been passed banning the trade of shark fins and awareness in China on the need to conserve sharks is making progress.


The Creation of Shark Sanctuaries

The President of Palau led the way in creating the first shark sanctuary in 2009. Further to this at The United Nations he also strongly urged all nations to do the same and also raised awareness among leaders about the precarious state of our oceans.

In 2010 The Maldives created a shark sanctuary followed by Raja Ampat (Indonesia) , Honduras and The Bahamas.

The Marshall Islands have now just created the world’s largest shark sanctuary of nearly  770,000 square miles.

The legislation for the Marshall Islands is significant.

 All commercial fishing for sharks is banned as well the sale, possession and trade of fins and all shark products.

No shark by catch is allowed and any shark accidently caught must be set free.

Heavy fines have been put in place and enforcement requires that all catches are landed within one of the country’s ports and bans transfers at sea.

In September Mexico announced plans to ban shark and ray fishing. Mexico is a huge fishing nation and we know that many Great White sharks are killed here every year. The details are sketchy but the declaration is a massive start as the ripple effect seems to spread.

Taiwan is also said to ban shark finning from 2012. (The whole shark carcass must be landed).  Although not an all-out ban, it is a step forward for the country that has the fourth highest shark catch rate in the world. Taiwan would join Chile which banned shark finning in July 2011.


Banning the Sale and Trade of Shark Fins

The biggest victory is the recent banning of the trade, possession and sale of sharks fins in California. Interestingly 70% of the Asian community supported the bill with most of the opposition coming from traders who had hired lobbyists.

This legislation is vitally important because California is the largest collection point for fins from Central and South America that are then shipped to the Pacific rim. If fins can’t get out, they can’t be bought.

With many other cities now following suit this could be a major factor in reducing commercial shark fishing.

California now joins other US states of Hawaii and Oregon.

Toronto, which is the largest market for shark products in Canada, and Ontario have also passed the same bill. The Toronto bill which was passed last week makes a very strong call for other Canadian cities to join them. 

All these bills had huge public support so I strongly urge you to sign petitions and write letters when requested. You can make a difference!

Fuji have indicated that they are also looking at introducing the ban of trade and possession of shark fins and products although no possible date as yet been given.


In Singapore a leading supermarket chain has supported WWF’s Sustainable Seafood Group and is no longer selling shark fin and shark products from its 42 outlets. Singapore is one the biggest consumers of seafood in the Asia-Pacific region so a large supermarket chain taking a step like this is very positive. And again it will lead the way for others to follow.

Awareness in China

Yao Ming, Sir Richard Branson and billionaire entrepreneur, Zhang Yue have teamed up with WildAid whereby they have filmed public service announcements to stop eating shark fin soup that will be broadcast throughout China.

Richard Pierce from The Shark Trust presented “Shark Champion” awards to 3 prominent Chinese for their work in shark conservation in China. A proposal for the ban of trade in shark fins in China was submitted to The Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in March. The proposal received a lot of support (from 45 members). This group firmly believes that it is not a matter of If but When this legislation will be passed.

If this should happen it will have a direct and major influence on stopping the decline of shark populations worldwide.

Like me I am sure you will all be very eagerly watching this space.

I have to say this has been a heart-warming exercise for me. Whilst doing this research I have been so surprised to learn of many of the events above. The swell is building and I do truly believe that change is coming.


Pelagic Sharks

The weather has not been kind to us but we have ventured of Cape Point a number of times. All trips have been successful with fair numbers of blue sharks and a very tiny 80cm mako shark. The water is not quite the warm, blue summer water yet but our best time is yet to come. We do have a lot of scheduled trips planned in December so let us know if you wish to join us. Hyperlink. 


Gansbaai Visit

I have had a bit of a shark drought since the Great white shark season ended at Seal Island in mid-September so when we had the opportunity to do some filming in Gansbaai I was really excited to see and cage dive with the great whites again.

We had to wait for good weather as we needed perfectly flat seas in order to work inshore, the summer haunt of the Great whites. When the day came we launched at 5.30am to make the most of the perfect conditions.

We had a fair wait of about an hour and a half before the first shark came up to the boat, but wow, after not seeing them for 2 and a half months I had forgotten the feeling they leave you with! It was beautiful to watch the first shark gently cruise effortlessly around the boat and I thought to myself how lucky I was to have a beautiful day to see a great white shark.

Soon the other shark cage diving boats came out to join us and even though there were a number of boats close to us we regularly had sharks up to the boat. Unfortunately the visibility was poor so it was difficult to cage dive and basically limited us to filming from the surface. 

A lot of the sharks were really interactive and a number of them stayed with us on and off the whole day. An interesting observation was a number of occasions were the bait fish glancing off the sharks. Game fish have been observed to do this probably in order to remove parasites by moving against the roughness of the shark’s skin, but this is the first time we have seen the bait fish do it. It resulted in a lot of silver flashing around the sharks creating a unique sighting.

By the end of the day we ended up with 14 different Great white sharks, a remarkable number for what is thought to be the slower months for seeing sharks. So, right now is a great time for any of you thinking about shark cage diving with our sister company in Gansbaai this summer. It may even be a great idea for a Christmas present. We do provide vouchers so contact us now for a special gift for someone!

For those of you are planning ahead for a shark trip in 2012 our full program for Shark Expeditions 2012 with Apex has been finalised. Trips include The Sardine Run, Great White specialties and now new expeditions to see a whole range of Super Shark species.

As its Christmas time we also have specials on our website, so if you want to make it a Great White Christmas (!) specials are valid until 31 December.

I am looking forward to sharing our pelagic shark trips news with you all soon!


Best wishes

Monique Fallows




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