Cape Town 10 may 2012 image I took this last weekend of a dead ray in the shark nets in the Aliwal Shoal, a marine protected area which should not have nets in the first place, just one of the thousands lost to what we call the walls of death. A surfer floats at the top. MUST credit : Lesley Rochat/www.lesleyrochat.com

Lauren Manning

STAFF REPORTER

A WILDLIFE conservationist took to the sea and entangled herself in a shark net – all in an effort to help spread the word about the plight of SA’s shark population.

Lesley Rochat of the AfricOceans Conservation Alliance was entangled in the net for a photoshoot for the “Wanted! Dead or Alive?” poster campaign series.

Rochat, who is known as the “Shark Warrior,” is also a documentary maker and photographer.

She is raising awareness and is encouraging people to sign a petition to stop the slaughter of SA’ssharks.

“It was frightening to try and untangle myself and get back to the surface,” she said.

“It gave me the opportunity to understand what it must be like for those animals.”

SA has over 100 species of sharks, but only three of them are currently protected.

“All the others can get caught and killed,” she said.

Rochat has also teamed up with Trevor Hutton, a word-champion SA free driver, and a crew of supporters to push for further government action and awareness through their website, www.deepfreediveforsharks.com

In June, Hutton is attempting to break a SA free diving record off the coast of Durban as part of the group’s campaign.

Durban, says Rochat, has been the location of unnecessary shark slaughter for many years, especially because shark nets are placed in a marine protected area (MPA).

“It’s very indiscriminate killing,” and dolphins, turtles and whales are also caught.

The group is lobbying for the protection of a number of shark species, the removal of shark nets from MPAs, and the end of illegal finning and fishing of sharks.

They hope to open communication and lobby government officials to ensure that all shark species are guaranteed protection.

Rochat said that apart from the environmental reasons for protecting sharks, they also benefited SA’s economy.

“We have a huge eco-tourist industry and besides that, you’ve got huge job opportunities created by the industry,” said Rochat.

“Our country owes it to not only the animals, but also the people to protect these animals and find alternatives.”

Statistically, according to the campaign, cage diving for great whites in the Gansbaai area alone generates close to R289 million annually.

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