Article published in the Gansbaai Courant and the Gansbaai Herald on the 8th of June 2001.
Gansbaai White Sharks: International Scientific Focus

Two representatives of Gansbaai attended the Indo Pacific Fish Conference (IFPC) in Durban from the 20th to the 25th of May, and presented their research findings on Great White Sharks at Dyer Island. Michael Scholl has been conducting a study on the population of these sharks using photographic identfication since 1997. Ryan Johnson has been conducting a study on the behaviour of White Sharks, living for over a year on Dyer Island itself, and focusing on the impact assessment of the White Shark Diving industry on the sharks’ behaviour since 1999.

This is another aspect about which Gansbaai should be proud of: not only do we get great coverage through documentaries like the National Geographic that aired a week ago, but there is also very dedicated scientific research being conducted in the area. This aspect is just as important for international recognition, as are the many documentaries and articles distributed and published worlwide.

Very important and interesting contacts have been made with other shark researchers around the world. Among these, two Australian researchers, Barry Bruce and John Stevens, from the CSIRO who, for the second consecutive year, have mounted a satellite tag on a Great White Shark, named Neale, to monitor their precise movement patterns over a long period of the time (check Neale’s movements on: www.marine.csiro.au). Similar studies are being implemented in South Africa by Marine and Coastal Management (previously known as Sea Fisheries Research Institute), and such international expertise can help us not duplicating previously made mistakes elsewhere.

It is time that we, people of Gansbaai, learn to understand and appreciate the unique opportunity we have on our doorstep: Gansbaai is recognised worldwide as the White Shark Capital. But this should become a market or industry of which everyone can be proud of, and everyone can relate to, and into which more people should become directly or indirectly involved in. Just a week before the conference in Durban, a White Shark « washed up » on the shores of the Danger Point Peninsula, during the night the jaws and fins had disappeared. This is a shame for the whole community, and it should become the pride and honour of all to prevent further poaching of these sharks. We really must realise that the Great White Shark represents the future of Gansbaai. This illegal luxury trade must be stopped before it gets out of hands like the Perlemoen poaching situation. We can all be proud of South Africa as being the first country in the world to have managed to protect Great White Sharks in April 1991. We have set the example, and following our initiation, several countries have followed: United States of America, Australia, and Malta - So let us keep up with setting the example!

Ryan Johnson and Michael Scholl also attended the African Shark Conservation and Management Workshop organised by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) in Cape Town on the 29th through 31st of May. 46 local and international delegates, of whom 19 where from diverse African countries other than South Africa, were present to introduce and discuss conservation and management issues with regards to sharks in Africa. This was a very important step towards a better african awareness, understanding and hopefully implementation of adequate shark conservation and management plans. The regional reports from diverse african regions were rather disturbing in that near inexistant information was (un)available with regards to shark catches.

Be Proud of our Natural Heritage, Promote it, and Protect it! There is an american-indian saying that resumes the situation: « We have not inherited nature from our parents, we simply borrow it from our children ».

Michael Scholl has also arranged a couple of excursions to Gansbaai and Dyer Island for the people who attended the conferences in Durban and Cape Town. On Friday the 1st of June, the first group was supposed to go out with Marine Dynamics, but the trip had to be cancelled due to the weather. On the 2nd of June, five delegates managed to get out on a White Shark trip with the White Shark Diving Company. The delegates were: Sarah Fowler and Rachel Cavanagh of the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) Shark Specialist Group, Peter Pueschel from IFAW and the European CITES Coordinator, Ramon Bonfil

of the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York, and Lizzie Tyler. This trip was a success as they observed four different White Sharks. Grootbos Nature Reserve then welcomed the party for a sunset drink which really ended the day, in a « See you soon again » rather than « Good bye! » attitude.

If you have any information regarding the White Shark fishing activity, or the trade of teeth, jaws or any other parts, I would dearly appreciate your help or information contribution - your contact will remain strictly anonymous - and you might greatly contribute in promoting these sharks to an international protection level (CITES - Red List) in 2002.