News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Wednesday April 16th 2014

Shark alert as film crew comes to town

12.04.2012

A permit for wildlife television personality Chris Fischer to release up to five tons of chum to attract White Sharks off the Cape coast has raised concerns among some shark conservationists, and surfers. Photo: Dirk Schmidt

Shark conservationist and author of two books on the White Shark, Dirk Schmidt, has raised concerns over a permit issued to adventure television personality Chris Fischer to chum for sharks off the Cape coast.

A permit for Fischer and a team of researchers to release chum (a mix of fish heads, innards and oil) to attract sharks for the period of their televised research from April 10 to 30, has also got surfers and ocean bathers concerned about a possible resultant spike in shark activity as, although the chum can only be released at least two kilometres offshore, winds and ocean currents could push the fishy slick close to popular beaches, bringing sharks inshore.

Fischer and his team are believed to have up to five tons of chum which they can release to attract sharks.

Ocean users in False Bay, which is world renowned for its White Shark activity, are particularly concerned as sharks are often spotted at Muizenberg Beach which is popular among surfers and bathers.

Over 1 100 sharks have been sighted close to shore by the Shark Spotters who keep watch over beaches from Muizenberg to Fish Hoek, with Shark Spotters manager Sarah Titley saying three sharks were sighted at Muizenberg and St James beaches yesterday.

Schmidt said beyond concerns over chum being released in the bay and drifting toward shore, he was concerned over the research activities being filmed by Fischer and his team causing harm to the sharks.

He said Fischer was filming the capture and tagging of sharks, which determined their patterns of distribution and migration.

The problem was that if these patterns were widely known, any fishing outfit that wanted to catch White Sharks would know where to find them beyond protected waters.

Additionally, the tags stayed in the shark fin for up to five years which meant it would create deformities in any growing shark.

“Do we really need to know where these sharks are tracking, and if we do, who is going to ensure their protection?” he asked.

He said he also had concerns over the lack of public consultation, or announcement, that a permit for the release of five tons of chum had been issued.

He said the issuing of the permit had been “incredibly clandestine”.

“No scientist can say there won’t be altered behaviour on the part of the sharks (due to the release of large amounts of chum). My concern is if someone gets attacked, then the shark takes the blame.”

Save Our Sharks Foundation spokesperson Kim von Brandis said they did not know about the issuing of the permit for large scale chumming until alerted by Schmidt.

She said she could only hope that Fischer and his team adhered to the stipulations of the permit and respected the needs of bathers and surfers.

Regarding public awareness, she said: “It would be great to inform the public about what is going on in the bay.”

Titley said whether or not chumming by the shark researchers would bring more sharks inshore was something she could not speculate, but said during this part of the year it was normal to see more sharks near the shore as it was part of their seasonal behaviour.

There was also daily chumming by shark cage diving operators near Seal Island anyway.

She said there were three shark sightings yesterday morning, two sharks that swam from Muizenberg to St James and another sighting of a shark in St James.

Director of Biodiversity and Coastal Research, Alan Boyd, who was responsible for issuing the permit, said he did not believe the chumming by Fischer and team posed any danger to the public.

He confirmed that up to five tons of chum were on board the vessel but none of the activities took place close to the coast and the teams activities were not confined to False Bay.

Fischer could not be contacted for comment yesterday. – Steve Kretzmann

Tags: Alan Boyd, Biodiversity and Coastal Research, Chris Fischer, Dirk Schmidt, False Bay, Fish Hoek, Kim von Brandis, Muizenberg Beach, Sarah Titley, Save Our Sharks Foundation, Seal Island, Shark Spotters, St James

Reader Feedback

3 Responses to “Shark alert as film crew comes to town”

  1. sugarbean555 says:

    thanks to Dirk for raising awareness, as had he not done that, very few Cape Townians and ocean lovers would be aware of this project.
    everyone who loves our oceans must understand that our apex predators are essential to the health of our precious marine eco-systems.
    and fact is.. there is no proof that chumming doesn’t increase shark activity, potentially endangering beach goers/surfers..
    and there IS proof that this type of tagging (spot tagging) hurts the sharks.
    there are different methods of tagging – the best being tagging the animals WHILE they are in the water.
    HOWEVER, the method this team will use is NOT the safest NOR the best for the health of the sharks. so whose interests are being met here?
    Ocearch/Fischer want to film the DRAMA of capturing the sharks.. (for their documentary and NOT for science. and believe me there has been years of research into tracking our Great Whites.. how much more data do we need? and do we want their movements published on the internet, so blatantly..? (see Ocearch’s maps and data from Mossel Bay all over facebook and twitter)? … so that the finnners/fishermen will KNOW the movements. trust me, South Africa does not have the resources to then patrol these areas)…
    so Ocearch have chosen the most distressing method of tagging. capturing our sharks, taking them out of the water (which is dangerous and stressful on big sharks’ internal organs as they DONT have skeletons) keeping them out of the water for around 20 mins (well, thats what they say) and then chucking them back in the ocean.
    please do whatever you can to continue to raise the public awareness of this upsetting project.
    thank you. oceans of hugs.

  2. I feel that much more care for the entire situation, for the sharks, and for the people using the beaches is necessary. This project, since it is to be televised, seems to be suffering from delusions of grandeur in ignoring both. Sharks are much more fragile than they might seem to animals like us who have evolved to walk on land. Evolving always supported by water, large sharks cannot be removed from the water without suffering internal damage that could kill them. In addition, their jaws are not able to bear the whole force of their bodies driving forward in a desperate effort to escape on feeling the huge hook sink deep into their flesh, and their jaws can thus be damaged, unhinged, or broken, by spot tagging practices. It is possible to tag a shark by chumming it up to a boat and putting on the tag as it swims close, as is practiced by more concerned researchers. Further, these spot tags damage the dorsal fins, and render the shark unidentifiable by other researchers. The entire affair comes across as being ego driven, so there is concern for who is going to suffer as a result. Good to all who are trying to stop it, or change the way it is carried out.

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