1. Virtually every day in South Africa scientists either tag , biopsy sample or place cameras on great white sharks. To date more than 300 have been tagged with acoustic pingers and hundreds if not thousands of biopsy samples have been drawn. We also had a project that for 4 seasons at Seal Island placed cameras on the sharks to see what they were eating!
In 1991 The great white was protected in South Africa and that was the end of it. Thereafter there has been zero enforcement.
The Natal Sharks Board still kills 11-60 great whites per year and now even has drum lines to specifically target big sharks. They are still being long lined, they are fished for by sport fishermen from the beaches and from boats, and they are poached by abalone poachers. So other than furthering our knowledge and the careers of scientists, what has been done by any of this invasive research and "knowledge" to save these sharks?
2. From what has been told to me and what I have personally seen the SPOT tags cause massive damage to the sharks dorsal fins, sometimes even causing complete collapse. This project therefore cannot claim past projects ignorance and they are knowingly doing this to these animals with the aim of getting more "data" that once again begs the question of how it will help the sharks?
Is this the only or best way of doing this and will the radical movements of a traumatized animal accurately reflect the behavior of a normal animal?
Having witnessed and recorded over 7500 predatory events, between great whites and Cape fur seals, over the last 16 years I am well aware of the fine margins some of these predatory events are decided by. Besides being ethically wrong to knowingly disfigure an animal, by deforming a key stabilizer to a high speed ambush and pursuit predator, is akin to compromising a F1 race car by removing a aerofoil and still expecting it to compete.
3. Finally and most importantly, there clearly is no compliance in South Africa with regards to breaking the laws pertaining to killing or catching Great White Sharks. There is ample evidence to highlight the fact that we know where , when and by whom the sharks are being fished and poached. It is mostly right under our noses. Nothing is being done to stop this other than by those in conservation circles or by the presence of cage dive operators.
Is it a good idea to now tag these sharks with sattelite tags that pin point areas of regular activity , many of which will be out of the public eye. Surely this is a perfect road map for anyone who wishes to catch them, and with zero enforcement or a plan to change this, is this not just going to add more pressure on these animals?
My whole argument is not against Chris Fischer and the team of scientists involved, it is against the need and principles behind this research and the effects and implications it may have on the sharks going forward.
Whilst I would never want to see great whites being hooked, if it was truly for the benefit of the sharks and conservation as motivated by Dr Boyd, Fischer and co, with a sound plan in place for the sharks protection as well as the arrest and prosecution of anyone catching them, I would be far more supportive of such an effort.
Debra Canabal of Epic Diving in the WSV hoodie. Get yours!
About the Author
Skyler Thomas is the primary blog contributor, cinematographer, and lead editor at White Shark Video.