Remove the shark nets in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Posted on May 12, 2009
Written by: Shark Savers

Sign a petition opposing shark nets in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa by clicking on the Remove the Nets logo at the left.

It is hard to believe in this day in age with all we know about sharks, including their plummeting populations, their critical role in our ecosystem, and the small risk they pose to us, that the archaic and destructive practice of installing shark nets for bather "protection" still exists. But in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, a place ironically known around the world as one of the few places left that sharks - and the ecosystem they keep healthy - still thrive, hundreds of harmless sharks, as well as turtles, dolphins and rays, still meet an untimely death every year in the 28 km of fishing nets installed just off the beaches.

What are shark nets? Shark nets are gill nets installed in tiered patterns by KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board (KZNSB) - not fully extending to either the top or the bottom, and not fully enclosing the beach areas. The concept is one of population control: cull the shark populations to reduce the risk to the bathing population. And, it is an indiscriminate process; nets are installed all over the coast, even in Marine Protected Areas, with the sole intention to kill all sharks - regardless of risk - including endangered species, like the Great White Shark.

Over the last 30 years, more than 33,000 sharks have been caught in these nets. And, 2,211 turtles, 8,448 rays, and 2,310 dolphins.

While there are far more destructive practices occurring worldwide, this is an unnecessary and outdated practice that could easily be addressed, blemishing South Africa's image as a world leader in conservation. And, it is the mere existence of the nets that is the most damaging to the overall conservation of sharks due to their impact on our collective psyches. The installation of shark nets reinforces our misguided and often times irrational fears of sharks, providing a very real example that our concerns are valid. This in turns fuels the biggest issue faced in shark conservation: public apathy or even loathing towards sharks.

It could be said there was a time and place for nets. Years ago, when the public knew little about sharks and the fear of shark attack was running high - and shark populations were far healthier than they currently are today.

In 1950, we knew little about sharks and the oceans. And, we had yet to spend the next 50 years ravaging our oceans, doing more damage to them than ever before. The public wanted and needed "protection" and nets served their purpose.

Since then, while shark fishing has skyrocketed eliminating a large percentage of the world's shark populations, the public has been exposed to much information about the environment and biodiversity conservation as well as the sharks' true behaviors towards humans. And many have gone far in proving there are other harmless shark deterrents, and further, animals do not need to be killed to allow for peaceful coexistence in their domain. Shark conservation and the need to protect them is an established fact, as is the fact these animals are significantly misunderstood, with the actual risk of an incident being infinitesimal.

It is time for a change. It is time for the KwaZula-Natal Shark Nets to be removed. Join the campaign. Make your voice heard.

Sign the petition here

Download this article by THOMAS P. PESCHAK on Shark Nets from 

AFRICA GEOGRAPHIC  MAY 2009  1.12 Mb