Posted on Sunday, 11 March 2012
We just received tragic news that a very large 4.3 meter (14 foot) female Great white shark was caught and drowned in a whelk fishing net off Fish Hoek beach today. There has been a fishing licence issued for whelk that allows the fishermen to use fish baits set in a net to catch whelks. They are setting these nets within less than 100 meters of the shore in Fish Hoek Bay.
The bait obviously attracted the white shark which then became entangled in the net. From official reports the shark was still alive when the net was retrieved but it appeared the fishermen made no effort to release the animal. From all accounts the animal was thrashing around on the surface so appeared to be very much alive. It must have thrashed around until it eventually drowned.
One of the False Bay shark cage diving operators got wind of the situation and as they were at sea they approached the fishing vessel with the intention of freeing the shark.
The crew of the fishing vessel refused to release the animal as they wanted to keep its jaws. It appears a large fight took place until they eventually released the dead shark.
The shark operator then towed the shark carcass to Simonstown to hand it over to the authorities. This magnificent female shark was measured at 4.3 meters.
This terrible event begs a few questions.
Firstly, these people have clearly knowingly killed a great white shark by making no efforts to release it. Will they be prosecuted as this is supposedly a protected species.
Secondly, Fish Hoek is a highly sensitive area in terms of great white shark activity and the community is very concerned about the presence of the sharks. In fact it has just been announced that a shark exclusion net will be put into practise at Fish Hoek beach. Based on this, how could any authority possibly allow a fishing operation that uses baits that attract the sharks into an area as sensitive as Fish Hoek, arguably the most sensitive area in South Africa?
Aside from the threat of entangling a variety of species of sharks and wildlife surely this will attract more sharks to an already sensitive area? I wonder if the Fish Hoek community is even aware of this fishing practice or was even consulted on the issue?
Sexually mature Great white sharks are a rarity. The whole of last year I don’t think we saw more than 5 sharks of this size or bigger. This shark would at least have been 13 to 15 years old and would have been an extremely valuable member of the great white shark population.
This is a terribly tragic event and an absolute waste of a very precious life and I am sure so many of you will feel as sad about this as we do.
It is high time knowledgeable people are employed by the government organisation tasked with managing this sensitive area. These people need to know something about the wildlife and the way in which it works in False Bay if this area is to remain so special.