Leon Bekker, in a black wetsuit, denies that he hauled in a great white shark with the help of other men, saying the water washed it on to the rocks.

Melanie Gosling

Environment Writer

THE two Mossel Bay shark researchers who exposed the illegal great white shark “trophy hunter” this week have been inundated with e-mails and calls from members of the public who are outraged about the incident.

If one phones the Oceans Initiative centre in Mossel Bay and asks to speak to Enrico Gennari or Ryan Johnson, the researchers who “outed” white shark hunter Leon Bekker of George this week, the receptionist asks: “Is this about the shark? Then I’ll put you through to our PR, Cathy, who is handling all the calls.”

The researchers have also been sent more photographs of Bekker, posing next to other great whites.

Gennari said yesterday that many of the callers were anglers who said Bekker had “brought shame” on the sport.

“It’s an uprising of the public, which is good. The reaction comes from the voters, not from the government. All these people are standing up and speaking out.

“It’s very important. This white shark hunting has been happening a long time now. Since 2008, this is the fourth one we’ve got evidence about. There is a group of these guys that are doing it, but no one acts against them from the government.

“So now we are doing something about it. There is a R50 000 fine and two years’ prison, but there is very little policing happening. But now, with the public so angry, these guys will have to worry about every other fisherman watching them,” Gennari said.

Gennari phoned the Mossel Bay law enforcement officer from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries when Bekker was pulling the great white on to the rocks to be measured and photographed on Friday, but the official failed to go to the scene.

This incident has gone around the world. I have had e-mails from people in Italy about it,” Gennari said. The Cape Times has also had many e-mails condemning the catching of the great white, including one from the US.

Gennari said he and Johnson hoped the public outcry would force the government to “make an example of these people”.

The scientists have a series of about 100 photographs showing Bekker pulling the shark on the rocks, measuring it and posing with his thumbs up. Johnson, helped by a bystander, got the shark back into the water, but the researchers believe it was probably too badly injured to have survived.

The law requires that if anglers hook a great white shark, which is protected, they must immediately cut it loose.

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