Among wildlife professionals, there is a clear ethical standard that you should never bait a predator. There is not a game park in the world that places tourists in a cage and then drags bait around to entice apex predators, like lions, to provide a thrill for the ‘caged ones’.
Lloyd Edwards, of Raggy Charters, announced earlier this month that he had been awarded the rights – along with another as yet unidentified Bay-based operator – to conduct tours to Algoa Bay’s Bird Island for shark cage diving.
At a presentation held at Port Elizabeth‘s Bayworld complex, former policeman and Raggy Charters marine tour operator Edwards said that the operation would not present any dangers to swimmers as it would be conducted about 65 km from PE’s swimming beaches.
The jury is still out on the dangers and currents that will bring the ‘chum’ back into the bay. The prevailing Agulhas current travels down the coast from Bird Island past Cape Recife and often comes into the bay.
Great white sharks can detect one drop of blood in 75 litres of water. Great white sharks can sense tiny amounts of blood in water up to 4.8 kilometres away.
A Great white shark is a very difficult animal to see up close and personal. Not only is their worldwide population estimated at about a mere 3500 individual animals but their wild ocean environment doesn’t make it easy to find them. According to shark expert, Malcolm Smale, in 2014 there were 62 sharks in Algoa Bay – see: http://mype.co.za/new/there-were-no-sharks-in-algoa-bay/39632/2014/09
The Great White Shark Diving Industry is big business. It’s one of the top 3 attractions in Cape Town and an estimated 150,000 people go cage diving every year. The once sleepy little fishing village of Gansbaai is now the Shark Diving Capital of the world. The Gansbaai, False and Mossel Bay shark diving industry sustains hotels, guest houses, restaurants and gift stores. Along with job creation within the industry which is one of South Africa’s primary goals.
The South African authorities do not have a strong record with enforcement of permit regulations and this means each operator is completely self-responsible for the way in which they handle the animals with no consequences whatsoever should the sharks be poorly handled.
Questions also remain unanswered with regard to ‘competition’ between the long line and legal shark fishing taking place in Algoa Bay.
South African regulations restrict chum and tethered baits to fish-based products with a maximum daily limit of 25 kg. Bait handlers must not encourage sharks to ingest baits and sharks are not allowed to be intentionally fed. Presenting baits from cages is not permitted. Vessels must carry an active vessel monitoring system (VMS) that logs position every five minutes.
A spokesperson for Ironman said; “We have been made aware of the development [shark cage diving] and are in discussions with the municipality to better understand the scope of the project. The safety and well-being of our athletes always remains our top priority.”
Algoa Bay licensed Boat Based Whale Watching operator, Rainer Schimpf from AB Marine said; “When asked by clients to do cage diving, I take them to Mossel Bay, which has an established business with success guaranteed and, most importantly, no surfers or Ironman swimmers are placed in danger.”
The debates for and against Shark Cage Diving and the associated baiting/chumming activities are more or less divided into two camps: Vehemently Opposed (Surfers, Swimmers, Recreational Users) and Vehemently For (Tour Operators and people benefiting directly).
Stop Shark Cage Diving (www.stopsharkcagediving.com) said:
“Shark Cage Diving has become one of the top Tourist Attractions for foreign visitors coming to South Africa, and the operators and marketing companies put a huge effort into creating positive spin to downplay any negative results, denying any connection between the chumming and change of sharks behaviour patterns whatsoever, so that their clients will pay the $150 with a clear conscience. And that’s where we have to come in.
We are not against eco-friendly shark cage diving for tourism and research, but we are vehemently against the use of chumming (using a mix of blood, meat, fish to lure the sharks close enough to the boats for people in the cage to see) and the taunting of these great creatures with bait to try get a good photo for tourist’s holiday albums.The negative impact of feeding (or luring with the smell of food) of wild animals to within a few metres of humans is commonly accepted when referring to baboons and lions in the wild, yet coaxing and teasing the king of the ocean with food until it snaps (literally) is seen as a great way to make money.
An Australian Shark Cage dive operator has proven that chum is NOT the only way to attract the Great Whites.
Chum-free Eco friendly Great White Shark Cage Diving is happening in Australia, using audio sound vibrations to attract the world’s largest predatory fish, with ACDC being the Great Whites favourite music!! The benefits of using the sound vibration is that it is omnidirectional and instantaneous and completely eco friendly.”
Proponents of shark cage diving argue that it creates more awareness regarding great white sharks. People don’t care about things they do not love, and you cannot fall in love with a shark without being exposed to it.
Writing for National Geographic, Andrew Evans laid out his reasons why he would not go Shark Cage diving:
Andrew says; “The great white underbelly of South Africa’s amazing undersea wildlife is the growing phenomenon of shark cage diving – where tourists (mostly unlicensed divers) pay between $110-$150 to swim in a submerged steel cage right next to great white sharks who have been lured next to these boats with chum (dead fish, offal, and blood).”
“At National Geographic Travel, we take great pride in our dedication to authentic, sustainable tourism that leaves a positive footprint on a destination. In my opinion, shark cage diving fails to meet that standard on every front,” explains Evans.
Andrew goes on to explain why Shark Cage Diving is; Inauthentic; Unsustainable, Myth Perpetuating and Not Good Conservation.
Over on Facebook the announcement about the proposed Shark Cage Diving elicited over 55% negative responses from the two groups discussing the pros and cons:
Rosemary said: Apparently there were mixed reactions last night when Lloyd Edwards presented his plan for shark cage diving near Bird Island. Over the years Lloyd has shared awesome photos with us of dolphins and whales in Algoa Bay. Would imagine that he would never promote anything that could endanger our marine environment.
Irene said: Money making is a great game changer – can he go a bit further out to sea- remember then man who raised his lion and it still turned on him because of his natural instincts ….
Pat said: He is very good about our marine life & surrounds. It gors down well in Mossel Bay & will be good for tourism & big photography.
Urshi said: I’m sure Loyd would never do anything, if it is not in favour of the ocean. Him and Lorien are true Marine ambassadors of our aquatic life.
Theresa said: It might not be damaging to the marine environment, but it DOES make sharks identify humans as food, as they lure them with raw, bloody meat.
Johann said: I dislike what he is planning! Bird Island should be declared a marine reserve with no interference!! I am speaking as a former Angling conservation officer. Sardinia Bay is a reserve why not Bird Island? The Swartkops estuary has already been polluted and will never fully recover!! I don’t believe they are true ambassadors. Money and profit are the real reason!
Robert said: I have faith in Lloyd Edwards’ judgement. It would also be a boost to tourism.
Carole said: It would be a disaster!! What is his reason for wanting to do this ??? The only thing that will benefit is someone’s pocket.
Patrick said: Cage diving is a money making scheme, and a bad idea. Unnatural and modifies the feeding habits of these dangerous creatures. If you want to see sharks, do a diving course and get up close and personal with marine life. I don’t support it all all.
Heinrich said: It is strange that just a few years back the same person who is now going to chum for sharks was the one who was quoted in the same newspaper that rock and surf anglers in the bay are attracting more shark and that it should be stopped.
Joan said: Difficult one..could be good for city but could ..as has been, mentioned, attract more sharks making our coastline more dangerous for swimmers. A lot of thought and intelligent planning required before this idea is implemented.
Lucian said: Another issue that hasn’t been mentioned is the fact that other future potentially successful applicants for permits might not exercise the same public safety first protocols and go maverick all along our coastline. The all for one and one fall all policy will definitely ensure that this will be the result and this will most definitely jeopardise the much needed multi million rand inflow of revenue from our annual Iron Man competition.
Melisa said: To mention job creation, how many jobs will this actually create – honestly?
Jennifer said: A resounding NO to shark cage diving!!
Jimmy said: Who will benefit from this ? Will the money go to conservation or line the pockets of certain government officials and the tour operator planning this.
Uge said: Does anyone know if sharks will link humans with food?
Morne said: That’s a NO from me! Bad idea!
Jimmy said:Who will benefit from this ? Will the money go to conservation or line the pockets of certain government officials and the tour operator planning this.
Samantha said: I actually attended this last night and was impressed by the shark expert, Dr Malcolm Smale and the research done by Lloyd and his team and the stats, facts and figures presented by them. The proposed sight for the shark cage diving is approximately 60 km’s further away from our harbour and bathing areas than those in Mossel Bay, Gans Bay and False Bay in the Western Cape who send out multiple boats per day! Because our sight is so much farther it would only be 1 boat every 3 days or so and it would bring much-needed tourism revenue to our lovely little city which would benefit us all, not only the operators! On the subject of chumming… it is only fish blood and guts thrown out while what actually sends sharks into a feeding frenzy, is the smell of mammal blood. I feel good about this if it remains in the hands of a long-standing, world-renowned marine ecology warrior like LLoyd of Raggy Charters – Marine-Eco Cruises! Those of you who have doubts should have come to the presentation.
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