Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Zambezi Question - South Africa

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.

4 comments:

sam gimelty said...

Good point you need to also point out several of the really good ngos who are helping to save sharks in the area

victor said...

let sharks live net kills are not the way to go anywhere in the wolrd

tony said...

Can tell you this. Second Beach has had no-one swimming in it since the attack. Sight of lifesavers body has stalled surfers initiative. Tourism is pretty low. Petty crime is way up. Pollution from the town continues. River mouths are closing and Zambezi's have little place to breed. More deaths of people at the Blowhole on the Gap in the past five years than from shark attacks. Agreed shark nets are not the solution. Perhaps the lifesavers should implement a watch from the surrounding hills?

Shark Diver said...

Hi Tony,

Good points those "leaked images" were shocking. As media guys we're pretty sure someone with a stake in the outcome out there had a hand in that.

Hopefully they go with option two controlling the public, it's the least expensive option and they get a two-for through education. A win-win.