Sunday, November 24, 2013

Photos Emerge of Great White Being Gaffed and Landed in South Africa

Anglers land great white shark in South Africa
Photos of two fishermen apparently landing & gaffing a great white shark in the Mossel Bay area of South Africa is causing a growing outcry in social media circles.

Since 1991, it has been illegal in South African waters to catch or even attempt to catch great whites. If an angler accidentally hooks a white, he must release it as soon as he identifies it as a great white.  This typically means cutting the line.

The photos were apparently taken a couple of weeks ago and were posted on Facebook and on the forum Sealine, a South African angling and boating forum, on November 16th. From that moment, the circulation of the photos spread as they were shared on various social networks.
Anglers land great white shark in South Africa
In scanning the two Sealine threads discussing the photos (White shark caught...not cool! and Nico Munro and John Winter of Mossel Bayd killing great white shark) , it is quite clear that all the contributors feel that the two anglers were wrong and should be prosecuted if the facts bear out. There is some disagreement as to whether the shark was ultimately killed but several posters pointed out that the way the shark was gaffed and dragged onto the rocks most certainly assured that it would not survive if they indeed released the shark. [Note: we are not directly naming anyone in the photos as we have not confirmed their identity.]

Anglers land great white shark in South Africa
The release of these photos is drawing comparisons to the Leon Bekker incident where he was photographed in March 2011 landing a great white on the rocks in Mossel Bay (see below).  The photos of Mr. Bekker were widely circulated and there was a strong public outcry calling for his prosecution.  Mr Bekker was tried and found guilty.  He was sentenced to one year in jail or being fined R120,000. The sentence was suspended for five years.

Several shark conservationist organizations have stated that they have submitted these news photos along with the supposed angler's names to the Department of Environment asking that they open an investigation.  It is unclear at this time if any action has been taken.

Quite a few of the posters on Sealine are also recreational shark fisherman.  Many have weighed in saying that they follow all fishing regulations and adhere to the best practices when landing legal sharks. Their concern is that these images will hurt honest fishermen by helping drive a new wave of restrictive shark fishing regulations. BlouwaterBaair states, "It's idiots like these two that make fishing for the rest of the community a nightmare."

One poster, Graig V. cautions that everyone should keep their emotions in check and not use these photos as an excuse to have a trail by media. He adds that "this must be taken to court and sorted out there. Stirring up emotions helps nothing and if anything will get somebody to do something silly and get the whole case thrown out of court."

Leon Bekker lands great white in South Africa - March 2011
Others argue that having the photos widely circulated will help create pressure on the authorities to take action.

No matter what develops from these photos, it is clear from reading the Sealine forums that both the anglers and conservationists view the laws and regulations protecting our natural resources as important. There is mutual agreement that if someone chooses not to adhere to the law, then there needs to be consequences.

And whether any consequences do materialize in this case, that remains to be seen.  But Frank22 reminds us that no matter what happens here, "eventually KARMA catches up to everyone."

Photos are courtesy of Robin Flood.