A horrific shark attack in Port St.John, South Africa has prompted calls for the installation of shark attack prevention facilities or shark nets.
The animal identified in this attack was a Zambezi or Bull shark, common to the area. South African authorities continue to be mired in a 1970's attitude towards their near shore sharks species regarding them as a "problem" with shark nets being a "solution".
Shark nets have been roundly condemned worldwide with many anti shark netting programs being likened to the clear cutting of rain forests. Sharks and many other animal species ranging from dolphin to whales are trapped by these 24/7 killers of wildlife.
Right now government officials in Port St.John are also wrestling with the cost of such a project without first taking lessons from other sites world wide where "solutions" to shark "problems" are less intrusive for sharks and in most cases less expensive for authorities:
1. California-Since the early 80's California has gone against the conventional wisdom of shark nets in high traffic areas where both White sharks and people mix. Instead California instituted protections for white sharks, and began a long term education of local populations towards these animals. Today, even after rare shark attacks on humans, the sharks are not demonized but understood to also have a natural stake in the waters as well as humans. Beaches with sharks feature year round warnings and the public is educated.
2. Australia-In Queensland, Australia where Box Jellyfish sometimes kill humans beach side playpens are set aside. These are often large net enclosures that allow swimmers full access to the ocean in set areas with life guards, ceding the natural ocean to wildlife. This would be the optimal solution for Port St.John's waters.
A combination of education, and set aside swimming zones that were netted would work in a cost effective manner for both the government of Port St.John and for oceanic wildlife.
Cost effective shark programs require a willingness to see sharks as proper stake holders in waters where humans and sharks mix. For too long many South African authorities have seen their sharks as "others" to be managed and eradicated. Let's look at this entire issue from the flip side and manage human populations first. A win for all.