An unidentified man, believed to be from Cape Town, illegally caught this great in Mossel Bay.

Melanie Gosling

Environment Writer

THE annual illegal hunting of great white sharks has begun with a man hooking a two-metre shark in Mossel Bay, then hauling it on to the rocks and posing for a photograph with the animal while it was alive.

The unidentified man, who told locals he was from Cape Town, apparently spent nearly an hour getting the shark on to the rocks, where he measured it before posing for pictures on Friday.

Shark scientists say great white shark sport fishing begins about this time every year, when these sharks spend more time close to shore.

Great whites are protected and it is illegal to kill them or target them for sport. To date, no one has been prosecuted.

Angry shark researcher Ryan Johnson of Oceans Research, based in Mossel Bay, said concerned members of the public had alerted him. While fellow researcher Enrico Gennari, director of Oceans Initiative, phoned law enforcement, Johnson rushed to the beach.

The shark had been pulled – apparently by the gills – about five metres on to the rocks and the man and his two sons were posing with it, holding the tail. Its blood had pooled in a hollow in the rocks.

“I ran up and shouted that this was a protected species and what he had done was illegal,” Johnson said.

“I used some choice words to tell him to move away. I was pretty emotional because this happens frequently. He said: ‘So what if it’s illegal? Everyone does illegal things all the time, so what’s the problem?’”

With the help of another man, Johnson got the shark back into the sea, pulling it each time a wave washed on to the rocks. Once in the water, it swam straight into the rocks, and then moved out of sight. Johnson says he is unable to say whether it will survive.

“These guys know exactly where to catch them. They had a kayak for paddling out the line because you can’t cast bait that big, and he had one of those big sport fishing harnesses.

“When they started packing up he said he recognised me from a TV programme. He said he knows who I am and he can also play dirty.”

Read the full story in the print edition of the Cape Times.