An American team tagging a Great White off the coast of California
Chris Fischer is a US-based researcher and documentary maker who has a show called Shark Men on the National Geographic channel. The show follows a team of expert anglers led by Fischer and Dr Michael Domeier on expeditions around the world in search of great white sharks to research their migratory patterns, breeding and birthing sites.
Last week, conservationists in California and Cape Town raised concerns over Fischer’s plan to bring his show to locations along the Southern coast, including False Bay and Struisbaai. His team plans to capture and tag Great White Sharks that roam the waters along the coastline, capturing the action on film for their show. They also plan to shoot off the Eastern Cape and Kwa-Zulu Natal. They were already busy at it in Mossel Bay last month.
The Department of Environmental Affairs granted the team permits to capture and tag local sharks. On the permits, Department spokesman Zolile Nqayi said,
The project, because of its national nature, gives us an opportunity to expand our shark research on a national level and beyond the areas that we usually cover. For example, Port St Johns, where there is still a lot of work to be done to understand the shark attacks. Tagging the animals would also enable us to monitor their movement and enhance our understanding of shark behaviour.
Now a local group has established a petition to force the Department of Environmental Affairs to cancel Fischer’s permits to capture and tag local sharks. Their petition, which has American backing, mostly calls into question the ethics of performing shark tagging for the sake of entertainment, as well as highlighting the dubious data that tags allegedly provide.
One of Fischer’s critics, Michael Scholl, a shark expert with the White Shark Trust, said he was concerned that the department had allowed the team to come to SA after they were kicked out of other countries,
I find it amazing that someone who has been kicked out from both the Farallon Islands (California) and Guadalupe Island (Mexico), the other two best spots for white sharks in the world, should be allowed to conduct his circus in front of the cameras in South Africa.
On the other hand, Fischer’s project is backed by 30 local scientists and 16 universities and research institutions, which said the data gathered was invaluable in protecting the species.
Fischer told the media that South Africans did not know where their sharks went.
If we don’t help local scientists, it won’t be long before they [the sharks] disappear to the shark fin mafia.
On the project, and the protocol of shark capture and tagging, the DEA’ s spokesman Zolile Nqayi said,
The initiative comprises a number of projects involving leading SA shark researchers in collaboration with a few international scientists. The field work mainly involves the attracting, catching, tagging, and bio-sampling of sharks before they are released. The animal is hoisted on to the ship’s work platform for a maximum duration of 10-15 minutes while it is sampled by the research team.
All work is being done according to agreed and approved protocols based primarily on ethical considerations.
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