The man who caught a protected great white shark in Mossel Bay says he did not know the animal was a great white when he hooked it while sport fishing.
He also says he did not haul it onto the rocks to pose with it for photographs – insisting that the shark had been washed onto the rocks by waves.
Through tip-offs from the public, the Cape Times traced the angler, Leon Bekker, who lives in George.
In a telephone interview on Monday, Bekker said: “The water washed it up. I’m not that strong.”
Asked why he had not cut it loose after he had hooked it, as required by law, he said: “I’m a beginner at this (sport fishing). I didn’t know it was a great white. I’ve been doing this for a year only. I normally do take hooks out.”
The Cape Times was sent a sequence of photographs which show Bekker, with another man, hauling the great white onto the rocks.
One of them shows Bekker being handed a tape measure to measure the shark’s length.
Bekker denies that he was trophy hunting or that he was giving a thumbs up sign while posing next to the great white, which was still alive.
“That was not thumbs up. That was to show a greeting: ‘hosh, my broer’ (howzit my brother.) That’s how we greet in the Western Cape.
I greeted them,” said Bekker.
“We have over 100 photographs showing the sequence of what happened. About three photos show him with his thumbs up, staying in one position,” said Mossel Bay shark researcher Enrico Gennari.
Gennari and researcher Ryan Johnson said there were photographs of Bekker’s catches at a George sports shop.
“There were at least 12 different sharks he was posing with at the sports shop, big photos,” Gennari said. “But they wouldn’t let us photograph them. Now they’ve taken some down.”
It is illegal to kill or target great whites – listed as vulnerable to extinction – for sport. No one has been prosecuted.
At the time of the incident on Friday, Gennari telephoned the local law enforcement officer from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, but he never arrived at the scene.
Yesterday fisheries spokesman Hein Wyngaard said the department condemned the incident “in the strongest terms and once we have established whether there was any wrongdoing on our side we will take the necessary steps”. - Cape Times