Concerned ocean users voice their support for the Silence of the Sharks underwater protest
Endorsed by UGU South Coast Tourism, the biggest underwater protest ever held in South Africa will work in conjunction with the fifth annual Paddle Out for Sharks conservation platform while celebrating this year’s World Oceans Day (8 June) theme of ‘healthy oceans, healthy planets’, with a strong emphasis on curbing illegal fishing trawlers in South African waters.
The international Silence of the Sharks protest, initiated by underwater photographer and diver, David Pilosof, started at the end of last year following research that revealed more than 100 million sharks are killed annually, placing the animals in serious danger of extinction.
Along with illegal fishing; pollution and sharks killed as ‘by-catch’ are some of the other reasons the shark numbers are dwindling so drastically.
“Sharks are a part of nature and there is a reason they are in our world,” said Melville Hollamby, owner of Viking Fishing Charter, a shark-friendly organisation that safely returns any sharks mistakenly caught back into the ocean. “We believe that there are things to be harvested to eat, and things that are not. Sharks are not, so we release them back into the ocean.”
Hollamby will be part of the team involved in taking people out to the back line for the event at Shelly Beach. Likewise, Walter Bernadis from African Water Sports – who will be donating a boat on the day – has spoken out against the cruelty shown to sharks. He said,”the Silence of the Sharks initiative will also create global awareness about our oceans and the depletion of marine life through fishing trawlers.”
This was reiterated by shark scientist, Jess Escobar, who said one of the biggest threats to sharks in South African seas is illegal fishing.
“It is becoming a bigger trade and it’s important for the community to get together and take control of our resources,” said Escobar, who will be giving a talk before the paddle out at Scottburgh. “In the Aliwal Shoal area, besides being important to the ecosystem, sharks and other marine life are an important part of the community’s livelihood.”
Recently named South African surfing champ and passionate shark diver, Lynne Mackey, said the creation of awareness was an important first step.
“Through this initiative we want to change the perception of sharks,” explained Mackey, who will be paddling out for the event. “Besides illegal fishing, the general pollution needs to be addressed. People need to clean up after themselves on the beach, and even clean up after others. If we all get involved, we will see a real difference.”
Shark Angel, Beulah Mauz, said:” It is amazing to celebrate our sharks, while, at the same time educating our youth and giving back to the community by hosting some youngsters each year.”
Award-winning underwater photographer, Allen Walker, said he was disheartened by the lack of understanding for environmentally sustainable ocean practices and the need for ocean conservation.
“I can only think this is because 90% of the people cannot personally relate to the underwater realm and, therefore, do not see the need to protect our oceans and support underwater photography as an art. Baba Dioum’s words ring true: ‘In the end we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, we will understand only what we are taught’.”
He said, to this end, he endeavours to highlight the ocean’s beauty, thereby creating compassion for these magnificent animals.
“it is also important to give back to the ocean from which I receive of pleasure, so when it comes to conservation, I gladly allow the use of my images without charge.”
Lending his support to the day’s events, Tony Ribbink of the Sustainable Seas Trust, said:
“On behalf of Sustainable Seas Trust, its patrons and trustees, including Sylvia Earle of Mission Blue, I have great pleasure and pride in congratulating the Aliwal Shoal Hope Spot team on a wonderful people-orientated programme to celebrate World Oceans Day.”
Ribbink said the event is carrying powerful messages that will hopefully have the intended impact.
“It is thrilling to note that so many people with different interests and love for the sea have been brought together across a large area of the South Coast. The plans are meticulously laid to include many different ocean user groups. It is also most rewarding to note the large number of organisations and people working together to make a difference, sharing knowledge and promoting understanding and caring.
“I can confidently say that those of us involved in Hope Spots in South Africa and through Mission Blue elsewhere in the world applaud your vision and actions.”
The day’s events will start 8am at Scottburgh Main Beach with a talk by Jess Escobar, while watching the Paddle Out for Sharks participants that will gather at backline off Scottburgh Beach where flowers will be laid. Thereafter, the Silence of the Sharks participants will be invited to jump off the boats and form a group in the water holding banners. Following a countdown, the divers will descend one to two metres with the banners. Scuba divers will then descend with the banners to a 10 metre depth.
The Harley Owners’ Group (HOGS) Durban Chapter will also be showing their support by riding from Durban to Scottburgh and gathering at the tidal pool on Scottburgh Main Beach. Everyone is welcome to attend and encouraged to bring deckchairs, binoculars and flowers. At Scottburgh UGU South Coast Tourism will provide muffins on a first come first serve basis for supporters and aQuelle has generously donated flavored waters too.
Shelly Beach will be hosting children from St Martin’s School for the Disabled on the day with a great line-up of informative activities planned. The public will be taken onto the boats to celebrate the sharks and explain the need for shark protection, after which divers will descend with the banners.