Letter for sharks

I did something (little) for sharks today. Instead of making sure someone with a camera was nearby, putting on a bikini and attaching myself to the dorsal fin of an unfortunate shark, I wrote a letter. It’s not a particularly eloquent letter, and might get lost in the mail room. It might even be completely misdirected – but it’s one of the things that it’s within my power to do.

Minister of Environmental Affairs: Ms Edna Molewa
Private Bag X447

Dear Minister Molewa

It is very encouraging and a source of great pride to me that South Africa is one of the few countries to specifically protect great white sharks in our waters. Sharks are essential to the functioning of a healthy ecosystem. As top predators they are vulnerable because they reach reproductive maturity only when they are several years old, they reproduce slowly and they face many threats from humans.

Shark finning

I would like to respectfully ask that your office consider enacting legislation to prevent shark finning (the practice of catching sharks, cutting off their fins, and discarding the rest of the animal – often when it is still alive) in South African waters by both South African and foreign-registered vessels. I would also like to ask that you consider banning the sale, import, and export of shark fins and any products derived from shark fins in South Africa.

Shark finning is a wasteful, brutal activity that leads to the death of millions of sharks every year. In banning it we would be joining a growing number of countries that recognize that sharks have far greater value alive than dead. This is not only because of their contribution to maintaining the health of the marine ecosystem, but because they have significant ecotourism potential. The large number of shark cage diving operations in False Bay, Mossel Bay and Gansbaai attest to this – and there are at least eleven species of sharks found in South African waters, so this is only the tip of the iceberg as far as tourism potential goes.

Broadnose sevengill cowsharks

I would further like to request that your office consider placing broadnose sevengill cowsharks under the same kind of protection as that enjoyed by great white sharks in South Africa. These peaceful, beautiful creatures are found along our south and west coast and are frequently caught by anglers. Some of the less ethical shark cage diving operations even use cowshark livers in their chum mixture.

It is possible to scuba dive and free dive with these sharks in False Bay, and on visiting the site we often see the sharks with large hooks stuck in their mouths. These hooks impede feeding and hunting activity and must cause the animal considerable pain. Diving with the cowsharks is an activity treasured by local divers, and brings tourists from overseas to our shores. Please protect these sharks so that future generations can also enjoy the privilege we currently have of interacting with them freely.

Thank you for your attention on this matter.

Yours faithfully

Clare Lindeque

cc: Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries: Ms Tina Joemat-Petterson, Private Bag X250, Pretoria, 0001

Perhaps the bikini method works best, but I don’t seem to have enough of the tart in me today…

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Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

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