Sharks have a bad rep. The popular bad guy in many a Hollywood movie, the top ocean predator is used to instilling fear.
But in reality, the seemingly docile cow kills more humans than sharks per year.
On the flip-side, humans kill about 100 million sharks every year, either as bycatch or for their fins.
That's the message behind WILDOCEANS' latest conservation campaign - Shark Attack. Supported by the Shark Conservation Fund, the three-year shark and ray protection effort will focus on improving the status of threatened sharks and ray in South Africa, raising awareness and increasing knowledge about the important marine animals.
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It will also involve training and implementation of conservation measures to ensure laws are more than just ink on paper. Through intensified monitoring of the animals and their trade will help inform governmental policies that will help ensure their future.
Judy Beaumont, the deputy director of General Oceans and Coasts at South Africa's Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, is one of many members of the team behind the campaign.
“In South African waters we really are a lifeboat for sharks and rays, globally. This project addresses conservation, fisheries and economic imperatives. We are supportive of this collaborative initiative and believe this is an important conversation to be had.”
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Swimmer Achmat Hassiem is another member of campaign tea - someone with an especially personal message about sharks. He lost his leg in Muizenberg to a great white shark, after which he ended up becoming a medalled Paralympian swimmer.
But despite his terrible encounter, he still believes sharks need to be protected, even the one who took his limb.
“Forget Jaws, it’s the sharks that are under attack," adds Karen Sack, CEO and president of international NGO Ocean Unite and part of the WILDOCEANS team.
"As top ocean predators – not to mention lucrative tourist attractions – sharks are worth far more alive than dead; it should not take their extinction for us to figure that out.
"Sharks and rays need local sanctuaries, regional management, international protection, and changing cultural perceptions of products like shark fin soup and ray gill plates if these magnificent animals are to survive.”
Mark Bond, another member of the team and an associate professor of research at Florida University, reiterated the sentiments and highlighted the importance of organisations like the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
“In recent years we have seen an increasing amount of shark and ray species included on CITES to ensure trade in shark or ray products does not threaten their existence in the wild,” said Bond.
“I am excited to help facilitate the use of these CITES listings to work in concert with fisheries regulations to ensure South Africa effectively manages it’s shark and ray populations, maintains its role as a biodiversity hotspot, and continues to be a leader in shark conservation.”
According to the campaign, South Africa is one of the top three global hotspots for shark and ray diversity, harbouring 204 species and one-third of the global fauna, and 69 species are unique to our waters.
They are also important maintaining the delicate balance in the marine ecosystem, something which humanity heavily depends on for resources.
If you want to find out more, visit their website and follow them @sharkattackcampaign on Facebook and Instagram and @SharkAttackSA on Twitter.
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