Conservationists are concerned about a decision by the Environmental Affairs Department to allow the controversial television show Sharkmen to be filmed in the Western Cape.

The show, which airs on the National Geographic channel, follows a team of expert anglers led by Chris Fischer and Dr Michael Domeier on expeditions around the world in search of great white sharks to research their migratory patterns, breeding and birthing sites.

Michael Scholl, shark expert with the White Shark Trust, said he was concerned that the department had allowed the team to come to SA after they were kicked out of other countries.

“I find it amazing that someone who has been kicked out from both the Farallon Islands (California) and Guadalupe Island (Mexico), the other two best spots for white sharks in the world, should be allowed to conduct his circus in front of the cameras in South Africa.”

The team was also expected to shoot in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.

Lesley Rochat, the executive director of AfriOceans Conservation Alliance, said one of the scientists working on the show had assured her that this was a great research opportunity and there was a set protocol on catching the sharks.

She said she had been asked to come on board but was uncomfortable with being part of a show that could be “another testosterone driven, male macho, American load-of-bull TV series”.

Department spokesman Zolile Nqayi said the team plans to work in Struisbaai, Gansbaai and False Bay in April.

“The project, because of its national nature, gives us an opportunity to expand our shark research on a national level and beyond the areas that we usually cover.

“For example, Port St Johns, where there is still a lot of work to be done to understand the shark attacks.

“Tagging the animals would also enable us to monitor their movement and enhance our understanding of shark behaviour,” said Nqayi.

The project was a collaborative research initiative on large sharks in SA waters and was authorised by a Department of Environmental Affairs research permit.

“The initiative comprises a number of projects involving leading SA shark researchers in collaboration with a few international scientists,” Nqayi said.

”The field work mainly involves the attracting, catching, tagging, and bio-sampling of sharks before they are released. The animal is hoisted on to the ship’s work platform for a maximum duration of 10-15 minutes while it is sampled by the research team.

“All work is being done according to agreed and approved protocols based primarily on ethical considerations.” - Cape Argus