08 June 2005

Enter the world of the shark at your peril

Should man-eating sharks be hunted and destroyed?

This is how Australian authorities have responded after gory shark attacks.

On one occasion, the state fisheries gave police "shoot to kill" orders.

Australian cabinet minister Monty House said that although the shark in question belonged to a protected species, it could not be allowed to threaten swimmers. "The community's safety is paramount," he said.

Some Capetonians believe local authorities should do the same. But spokespeople for various local sea-based recreational codes disagree.

  • Ian Weinberg, National Sea Rescue Institute CEO: "We are entering their space every time we enter the water. If we had to kill every lion we come across that looks aggressive then there wouldn't be any lions left. If we walked through the bush without regard then every lion that's hungry is going to take us out, eventually."

  • Cleeve Robertson, doctor and diver: "I'm not sure that there's any research to support the fact that sharks target humans as prey. The initiative that they've taken in Australia is bizarre."

    "Sharks are the pinnacle predator in the food chain. People who venture into the sea are aware of that. These guys (shark victim Henri Murray and his friend Piet van Niekerk) were diving in the shadow of the mountain. Sharks exploit poor contrast due to poor light. That's why they're at their peak at dawn and dusk. But sharks are shy and timid animals. They don't hassle scuba divers."

  • Robin de Kock, general manager, Surfing South Africa: "Once you open that door, you'll have guys going out to hunt sharks every time there's an attack."

    "It's their territory. It's like wandering around Kruger Park with a piece of meat tied around your neck."

    "That's my personal philosophy and that of most surfers I've spoken to - leave the sharks alone and hope that they do the same."

    "If sharks really were human predators then there'd be attacks every day. The best plan would be to put shark nets up. But they're expensive. And they catch other marine life too. Maybe we should use shark pods, or other ways of keeping sharks away from bathing beaches."

  • Mark Dotchin, Western Province Lifesaving chairperson: "We're not sure that knee-jerk reactions like extermination are appropriate."

  • Peter Cole, surf-skier: "People think it may be the same shark from the last attack. One of the things I used to love to do was go for a paddle on my own and forget about everything. That's one thing I won't do anymore. I wish they could get some research done to clarify matters."

    Source: www.iol.co.za


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