07 June 2005

Declare war on sharks, says swimming legend

An experienced long-distance swimmer is calling for a bounty to be placed on Great White sharks after medical student Henri Murray was attacked - and says he is planning to hunt them.

Great Whites, predators at the top of the ocean food chain, are a protected species and may not be caught or harmed in any way without a permit from the Marine and Coastal Management branch of the department of environmental affairs and tourism.

Murray, 22, a Stellenbosch University student, has been missing and presumed dead since Saturday after he was attacked while spearfishing at Miller's Point.

Godfrey Mocke, SwimSafe Project manager and a long-distance swimmer with 40 years' experience, said on Monday that it was time to declare war.

"I have all the mechanics in place to take out that shark and all his mates who are near us. We need action now," he said.

"There are big-game fishermen from America willing to pay up to $500 000 to hunt Great Whites.

"It would be easy for the Environment Minister (Marthinus van Schalkwyk) to mark the area from Cape Point to Hangklip and a two-kilometre strip from the high water mark out and say OK boys, go for it. Do your thing'.

"The sharks would work out quickly that this was not an area where they wanted to be.

"I know the Great White is a protected species but it can't have carte blanche. I say we put a bounty out there and swell the tourism coffers. If we can cull seals, why can't we cull sharks?"

Mocke said he knew Murray as he had lived in the same residence as his son, Jasper.

"I saw Henri and Piet van Niekerk (the friend who was diving with Murray) on Thursday when I went to fetch my son at the res and I spoke to Henri."

Asked to comment, Van Schalkwyk said the issue was "serious" but he did not respond directly to Mocke's suggestion.

"We are guided in our decisions by scientific research and that is why we are conducting scientific studies on the possible relationship between cage diving and shark attacks on humans," he said on Monday.

He pointed out that the universities of Pretoria and Cape Town, the Iziko-South African Museum and the Natal Sharks Board were taking part in these studies, which started last year.

"It is too early to provide any findings," he said.

On Sunday the shark believed to have taken Murray was spotted near Simon's Town.

Brendan Dingel from Hout Bay and a group of friends were diving near a shipwreck north of Roman Rock at about midday when a "huge shark" hovered in the waters above them, trailing a line "plus what looked to me like a trigger mechanism".

This was presumed to be the remains of Murray's speargun.

Source: www.iol.co.za


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