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New plan needed to address decline in sharks along the coast

Concerns about the decreasing shark population has led to the formal review of the National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks. Pictures: ANDREW INGRAM/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Concerns about the decreasing shark population has led to the formal review of the National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks. Pictures: ANDREW INGRAM/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Published Nov 18, 2020

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Cape Town - Concerns about the decreasing shark population has led to the formal review of the National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks.

In May, the public raised concerns about the disappearance of great white sharks which had a devastating impact on the shark diving industry.

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The second issue was the increased conflict between those involved in consumptive and non-consumptive use of sharks.

Fishers are also concerned that the latest assessments on two shark species – the smoothhound and the soupfin shark – made them unsustainable.

Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Barbara Creecy said: “When it comes to a variety of 188 species of sharks, rays and chimeras, South Africa ranks among the top five nations. Thirty percent of these are considered endemic and therefore only around our shores.”

She said since the National Plan of Action (NPOA) was initiated in 2013, at least six new species had been discovered and more species were expected following the exploration of the oceans’ biodiversity.

“The loss of this iconic species from our waters should serve as a lesson to us of what could happen to others if we don’t take ownership of our biodiversity.

“Sharks have long represented a valuable source of income for communities and across fisheries, approximately 99 species of shark, rays and chimaeras are caught,” she said.

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An expert panel was appointed to formally review South Africa’s National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks (NPOA-Sharks).

They scrutinised 60 documents over three months and held eight virtual meetings to review the NPOA-Sharks.

Their report said: “The panel noted with concern the disappearance of the white sharks from ecotourism hot spots but concluded that these were more likely a shift in distribution from west to east as a result of recent Orca occurrence and predation, rather than being related to the fishing activity of the demersal shark longline fishery.

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“The panel found no convincing connection between the disappearance of white sharks from False Bay and Gansbaai and the demersal shark longline fishery.”

SANParks Cape Research Centres marine biologist Alison Kock said: “Regarding the relatively recent decrease of great white sharks in False Bay and Gansbaai, data has shown a decline in these areas.”

Cape Argus

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