I have read so many stupid things on the internet about the shark exclusion net that is to be trialled at Fish Hoek beach starting (hopefully) in January 2013, that I sigh loudly to myself, roll my eyes, and wonder about reading comprehension and literacy.
In an effort to lower my blood pressure and spread some information (as opposed to wild-eyed rumours based purely on the words “shark net” and a vigorously professed love for sharks), here is a helpful article explaining the extent and purpose of the proposed net. Exclusion nets are currently used in Hong Kong (you can see a photo here), but the unique challenges of the Fish Hoek environment (the bay faces into the prevailing summer wind, and there is a lot of kelp in the area which could foul the net) mean that the project needs to be thought out very carefully for Cape Town – hence the delay.
Here is a press release from the City of Cape Town, explaining in detail what the net will be like. I quote (emphasis mine):
An exclusion net is not the same as shark nets currently used in KwaZulu-Natal.
Exclusion nets are small meshed nets designed to act as a barrier to sharks preventing them from entering an enclosed area. In the proposed trial the area that would be protected would be kept to a minimum, but large enough to provide a recreational space and training area for the life-saving club. As such the area would be less than the size of two rugby fields and would run from just off Jaggers Walk on the south of the beach diagonally across to the Law Enforcement offices on the beach. The small mesh of the nets prevents capture or entanglement of marine species and the net acts only as a barrier.
Shark nets on the other hand are used along the KwaZulu-Natal coastline and are essentially fishing devices known as large meshed gill nets that entangle and catch sharks, reducing the local shark population and, by fishing for sharks within the vicinity of a protected beach, reducing the risk of shark attack. They cover large geographic areas and are further out at sea than exclusion nets. These nets are not species selective and hence also result in a range of other marine species becoming entangled.
Shark Spotters have neatly summarised the difference between gill nets (the KZN type) and exclusion nets here. Here’s a thoughful piece by Christopher Neff that discusses current and proposed uses of shark nets worldwide.
Tell your friends, and pay heed to the Shark Spotters.