A study is under way into the high number of shark attacks at Port St Johns on the Transkei coast – six since January 2006.

But neither effluent from local buildings and settlements nor a whale carcass buried on the beach a decade ago is likely to be a factor in the high number of attacks, says Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa.

She was replying to a set of parliamentary questions by DA environmental spokesman Gareth Morgan, who also wanted to know whether her department had been talking to the Port St Johns municipality.

In her reply, Molewa revealed there had been 39 shark attacks in SA waters between 2006 and 2011 – 15 each in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape (including the Port St Johns incidents) and nine in KwaZulu-Natal.

She confirmed that her department was talking to both the municipality and KZN Sharks Board about possible reasons for the attacks at Port St Johns.

Effluent discharge could not be directly linked to any of these attacks, and nor could the whale carcass that had been buried on the beach about 10 years ago after “significant” amounts of blubber and flesh had been removed from it.

“Given that the attacks only started in 2007, five years ago, it’s unlikely that the whale stranding incident can be correlated with the shark attacks,” she said.

l About 38 different shark species have been recorded in False Bay over the past 150 years, says fish expert Dr Colin Attwood.

His comment is recorded in the minutes of a workshop held last month as part of the “Coastal Conservation Partnership – False Bay”, an initiative of conservation group WWF-SA.

According to the minutes, Attwood said about five of those species had shown signs of declining numbers, “which is troubling”.

“Fishermen would know best which fish species are decimated but there are clearly at least 15 to 20 species of fish which are below adequate levels.”

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