Published: 27 August 2015
In South Africa, Human Rights Day is celebrated on 21 March, in remembrance of the Sharpeville massacre which took place on 21 March 1960. This massacre occurred as a result of protests against the Apartheid regime in South Africa. Human Rights Day is also a celebration of South Africa’s unique constitution.
So, where do sharks fit in?
South Africa is internationally recognized for its plethora of wildlife on land and in the sea. It is a country blessed with charismatic fauna ranging from the powerful rhinoceros to the most formidable marine predator, the Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharius). What many don’t realize, however, is the very survival of these animals – arguably the country’s most important assets – is being threatened by the greed of only a few people.
The problems facing sharks and the world's oceans are of paramount importance. Sharks have been on this planet for over 400 million years, which makes them a critical part of the marine ecosystem and an excellent indicator of the health of our oceans. Sharks continued presence in the marine ecosystem is essential to not only marine life, but to our own ability to thrive in the terrestrial ecosystem. Unfortunately, human interference with the natural balance of the ocean has resulted in the global elimination of up to 100 million sharks annually. With many shark species being killed at a faster rate than they are able to reproduce and sustain their population, sharks are likely to be among the first marine mass extinctions attributable to human interference. (www.oceans-aware.org)
In 1991, South Africa became the first nation in the world to protect the Great White Shark. In granting this species protected status, South Africa sent a message to the world that it was time to stop viewing sharks falsely as killing machines and start respecting them as essential components of the marine ecosystem.
South Africa’s first conviction in a case involving a great white shark should serve as a lesson to those who ill-treat protected species, the department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries has said. Leon Bekker was sentenced in the Mossel Bay Magistrates’ Court in January 2013 after he had caught, landed and disturbed a great white shark, Carcharodon carcharias – a protected species – on March 11, 2011 in the Mossel Bay area. He was sentenced to a fine of R120 000 or 12 months imprisonment on Friday. His sentence was suspended for 5 years.
Every individual can make a difference.
Join us on a shark cage diving and / or viewing trip and discover your “hidden” love for sharks…one small step can have a major shift in the public conscience in respect to sharks.