“I have proudly joined women who have through the ages gone naked to protest against numerous issues of concern. For example, women have gone naked against bull fighting, against war, against the fur trade, and now against the senseless slaughter of our sharks and other marine life in the Kwazulu-Natal shark nets in South Africa.”
Sharks are being killed at an alarming rate (over 70 million sharks a year) and most are caught by long line vessels that trail up to 140km lines with over 2500 hooks attached. The demand for sharks parts, in particular their fins, the most expensive fish product in the world, is increasing to satisfy the palette of the elite in a broth called shark fin soup. How their fins are obtained is one of the most cruel, barbaric and wasteful practices, compared to the illegal rhino horn trade whereby sharks are finned alive and then thrown overboard to die a slow and cruel death. Even in South African waters, shark finning is happening daily, people are just not aware of it.
|Lesley Rochat with lemon shark|
“These nets are wiping out our tiger shark population, which people come from all over the world to dive with. They are of high value in the shark diving eco-tourism industry. Florida, despite its high shark attack statistics is a very positive example for South Africa to follow,” said Lesley.
|Lesley Rochat free-dives with tiger shark|
As part of the campaign Lesley free dived with large tiger sharks at Tiger Beach. “It’s important for me to walk my talk and show people that sharks are not monster man-eaters with insatiable appetites for humans, but rather beautiful animals we ought to respect and protect,” she said.
The Rethink the shark campaign highlights that on average less than 10 people are killed by sharks every year while more people are killed each year by faulty toasters or by falling off chairs.
|Lesley Rochat free-dives with tiger sharks|
“It’s time to ‘Rethink the Shark’, and to rethink who the real predator is,” explains Lesley.
“Though there might be nothing more terrifying than the cry of ‘Shark’ when swimming in the ocean, if sharks could speak, they would all be shouting ‘People!’ Populations are plummeting around the world and already 110 species of sharks on the international Red List are threatened with extinction. For all their perceived menace, sharks are extremely fragile and in deep trouble.”
Sharks play a vital role in maintaining the delicate balance of the marine ecosystems and oceans denuded of them will have severe repercussion on the millions of people that depend upon the oceans for food. Scientific reports project the collapse of all fisheries by the year 2050, and as fish stocks decline shark catches are on the increase. Sharks are good indicators of the health of the oceans, but despite their importance in the marine food-chain, they remain a low conservation priority.
“Their future survival depends largely upon those in power supporting the conservation efforts of organizations and scientists and to changing fishing practices, limiting catches, banning finning, severely prosecuting perpetrators, protecting endangered species, creating more marine protected areas and shark sanctuary areas, and enforcing all of the above,” concludes Lesley.