(All Images: Oceans Research)
Although great white sharks are protected in South Africa, fishermen are still brazenly catching them, suggest graphic photographs taken of one such incident on Friday, October 14.
On that day, concerned members of the community at Beacon Point in Mossel Bay witnessed a fisherman in the process of catching a great white shark and hauling it onto the rocks. There are instances where this species is inadvertently hooked, but the fishermen by law must remove the hook and immediately release the protected shark back into the water.
In this case, Oceans Research scientist Ryan Johnson saw something quite different, according to a press release issued by the South Africa-based conservation group. After rushing down to the location, Johnson watched as the fisherman posed with the bleeding shark for photographs being taken by two companions.
Meanwhile, Enrico Gennari, another Oceans Research scientist, telephoned the local fisheries inspector from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. The inspector assured Gennari that he would come to the site, located just over 1/2 mile from his office.
With no inspector evident up to 20 minutes after the call, Johnson directly confronted the fisherman and informed him that he was breaking the law, that the great white is a protected species, and asked the fisherman to move away from the injured shark to enable Johnson to return it to the ocean.
With the help of a concerned bystander, Johnson did just that, which was no easy task, as you might imagine. They had to wait for large enough swells to arrive and take some of the shark's weight. (Adult great whites can weigh well over 4,000 pounds.)
You can see much of what happened to the shark in the following images:
Following release into the water, the shark rolled onto its side, righted itself, bumped into a rock and swam out of sight. According to the scientists, it is impossible to know whether the shark will survive.
As the fisherman started to leave, Johnson noticed that all of the man's gear appeared to be designed for shark and other large prey capture. Since the compliance officer never showed up during the 20 minutes while the fisherman and his pals packed up and left, they got away.
Great white sharks are protected, so clearly there's a law enforcement problem, but Johnson believes there's more to it than that.
"The difficulty in prosecuting and investigating such cases is that fisherman officially claim that they are not targeting white sharks (when questioned) despite unofficially admitting they are targeting white sharks in social media sites such as Facebook," he was quoted as saying in the Oceans Research press release.
"Despite being equipped with tackle designed to capture sharks as large as white sharks, fishing in locations that are known great white aggregation sites, the authorities claim that 'intent' cannot be sufficiently established to lead to a successful prosecution."