Saturday, 5 May 2012

More South African Shark Based Nonsense

Anyone my age or older, who lives, or has lived in Britain growing up, should recognise the woman above as Mary Whitehouse, an ultra-conservative, right wing, religious zealot, often best described as a "busybody" due to her war on the media and her downright insistence that the Great British public should be exposed only to what she deemed acceptable, i.e. no violence, no sex or nudity, no bad language, no homosexuality and enormous portions of Christian propaganda. In other words, she was a professional spoilsport.

This is Rafael Benitez, an unemployed football manager who had six years as manager of Liverpool Football Club, before a year at the then current European Champions, Internatzionale, who in the space of twelve months, he managed to turn into the laughing stock of Serie A, by turning an almost invincible side that won every major trophy the season before under their previous manager, into an Italian version of Stoke City.

Benitez's downfall can be traced back to a bizarre press conference where, after a question from a journalist, he produced a sheet of paper with various points he wanted to make so as to address certain "facts." The problem was, not one of these "facts" was actually true, as was gleefully proven in minute detail, by various newsgroups and internet sites over the following days. This was a man without answers to questions and who, in wanting his version of the answers to be correct, decided to call them "facts" and hope he'd get away with it.

The thing is, people who do that, rarely do get away with it.

Why am I writing about two regular butts of British jokes? well, Whitehouse and Benitez were the first two people that sprang to mind when a friend forwarded this to me.

Arguments against cage diving with Great White Sharks are nothing new, they've been going on since the industry first began in earnest in the early nineties and the arguments have never changed, they are the same now as they were back then, it's just that now most people have access to the Internet, meaning those detractors can reach a wider audience.

In the interest of fairness, I am going to provide a counter argument to various points raised on that site and also ask that you "please send this information (attached) to as many people as you know,
especially those involved with the Great White chumming/cage-diving industry, the so-called shark 'experts” & “researchers', and all people/organisations involved with ocean use activities, coastal
tourism industry and all relevant government departments."

The word "fact" is used a hell of a lot on that site, much like when people want to win an argument and say things like "Titanic is the greatest film ever made, FACT!" The sad truth being that the kind of people who do this, are the same types of people who say things so utterly stupid as that and even worse, actually believe what they're saying.

Let's start with the section "Cold Facts" as that seems as good a place as any to start...

  1. There has been a massive increase in Great White Shark attacks on humans in Cape waters since 1991
The author goes on to show a breakdown of attacks in Cape waters which he classes as "between Cape Town and Port St Johns"  so I am assuming that he is taking into account the attacks at Port St Johns which were not carried out by Great White Sharks but almost certainly Bull Sharks which should therefore be discounted if his argument is the solely the impact cage diving has had on attacks by Great White Sharks on bathers since the advent of White Shark cage diving.

Look at the "Cold Fact" box here.

Look at the attacks details section here.

  • There are four "freak" years, 1994, 1998, 1999 and 2005 where the attacks were higher in number than we would statistically, normally expect.
  • In 1994, of the 9 attacks, 3 of the victims were spearfishing
  • In 1998, of the 15 attacks, 1 was spearfishing, 1 was "moving a shark in a net,"  and 1 was "washing bait off hands."
  • In 1999, 1 victim was spearfishing
  • In 2005, 2 victim activities are unknown and 1 was spearfishing

Using the records provided from 1992 - 2009

  • From 1992 to 2000, there were 52 attacks and 5 fatalities, a rate of one in eleven.
  • From 2001 to 2009, there were 41 attacks and 10 fatalities, a rate of just under one in four
In the interests of being fair, it is worth noting that in the years pre-cage diving, the statistics show;

  • 1991 - 2 attacks
  • 1990 - 6 attacks
  • 1989 - 9 attacks
  • 1988 - 11 attacks
  • 1987 - 6 attacks
  • 1986 - 13 attacks
  • 1985 - 9 attacks
  • 1984 - 12 attacks
  • 1983 - 15 attacks
  • 1982 - 8 attacks
  • 1981 - 9 attacks
  • 1980 - 10 attacks
  • 1979 - 7 attacks
  • 1978 - 6 attacks
  • 1977 - 7 attacks
  • 1976 - 11 attacks
  • 1975 - 10 attacks
In the seventeen years between 1975 and 1991, there were 151 attacks, an average of 8.9 attacks per year before cage diving.

In the seventeen years (post cage diving) between 1992 and 2009, there were 93 attacks, an average of 5.5 attacks per year.

So this "massive increase in Great White Shark attacks on humans" since cage diving started is actually a gradual decrease in shark attacks since cage diving was introduced.

I know what you're saying, we didn't say "shark attacks, we said Great White Shark attacks" and to you I say, go back and look at the data this site provides, in many cases a species is not attributed to the attack and in South Africa particularly, species attribution for shark attacks was notoriously inaccurate. The simple "cold fact" here is that, as more people enter the water and more people actually purposefully enter the water with Great White Sharks in the waters from "Cape Town to St Johns Beach" attacks are decreasing.

Even as cage diving gets more an more popular in the seventeen year period this site uses, the statistics show that attacks are actually decreasing!

Hardly a "massive increase," in fact, quite the opposite.

The other favourite tool of the person who wants to win an argument, is to use speech marks, they are the people who do that annoying thing where they make quotation marks with their fingers, I use this sometimes so I am far from perfect, but this guy uses this a lot, almost entirely, surrounding the word "expert" and "researcher."

You see, this creates doubt in the mind of the reader as to the credentials of these people, it says "expert *snort* yeah right! expert, whatever lol" and like saying "FACT!" at the end of a sentence, is used entirely to win an argument without having any basis of fact to back up what you're saying.

Like this;

"There is a definite correlation between feeding wild animals and an increase in attacks"

Is there? Is there really? Says who? You have a picture of a baboon and a picture of a man in hospital, you follow this with a picture of lions kindly helping a driver with a push start for his Land Rover and a collage of pictures of Great White Sharks, cage diving stuff, and people who were bitten by sharks that weren't Great White Sharks. That's all the proof I need!

Seriously, people feed sharks in Fiji, big badass sharks and lots of them, Bulls and Tigers especially and Fiji averages between 0-3 attacks per year. People feed sharks in The Bahamas, big badass sharks and smaller Reef sharks and The Bahamas averages 0-3 attacks per year.

Florida doesn't allow shark feeding and averages between 10-30 attacks per year. There are no feeding operations currently operating in Brazil yet Brazil averages between 5-15 attacks per year. Hawaii banned chumming for sharks, hell they even implemented a shark cull once but the rate of attacks, with a cull, before the cull, with chumming and without has stayed pretty much exactly the same.

The following statement is my opinion, so I won't say "FACT!" or anything like that but in my opinion, anyone who claims that "shark feeding dive operations are causing sharks to attack more people, associate humans as food or cause sharks to become more aggressive" has zero credibility when speaking about sharks and doesn't know what they're talking about.

There is a world of proof which actually proves feeding sharks responsibly, as the vast majority of operations do, has no effect on shark attack dangers or rates of risk of shark attack, the primary source of this proof being that there is absolutely zero proof to suggest otherwise, absolutely nothing, nada. Not one single credible shark expert, researcher, scientist or behaviourist has ever claimed a correlation. Ever. As in, EVER.

Incidentally, sharks aren't baboons, baboons aren't lions and lions aren't sharks, all three are "animals" but any correlation between three completely different animals in three completely different ecological environments is spurious at best, completely mental at worst.

Now, read this and look at this absolute madness.

There is no point in me addressing all of this, I'll leave it to you to make your own mind up, I'll just pick the highlights;

To stop chumming/cage-diving in its current unacceptable form immediately, the industry must be investigated. A comprehensive audit (including financial) must be instituted to find out what is actually going on and everybody involved with the industry (including the “so-called experts”) must be forced to respond to the following questions:

1. who is actually being paid what, where exactly is the money going?

One would imagine the money goes to the business owner and ultimately, a percentage of profit (millions and millions of rand) is paid in tax to benefit South Africa.

2. why does it appear that there are no previously disadvantaged members of society involved in the industry and providing the services?

If you know me, you'll know I like a bit of socialism, helping those with less than ourselves but this argument is nothing less than insanity. It costs money to set up a business like a cage diving operation and thanks to apartheid, millions and millions of people are still suffering from the oppression forced upon them. This is tantamount to going up to a homeless man and saying "why don't you get a job?!"

3. apart from “shark spotting” which if the sharks were still behaving normally, would not have been required, can you confirm what, if any, job training/skills opportunities, community investments the cage-diving industry is making to help ordinary South Africans?

Hotels. taxis, airport shuttles, restaurants, bars, souvenir shops, takeaways, millions of tax rand etc etc. As far as I am aware, pre-cage diving, Gaansbaii could hardly be described as an epicentre of tourism, ditto Port Lincoln in Australia.

5. why, after every unfortunate shark attack, do the so-called “experts” immediately respond by saying in the media that “chumming is no problem and that there is no proof that it conditions or modifies shark behaviour in any way. The shark made a mistake and we should accept that there is always a normal, slight risk of being attacked by a GW if we venture into their domain.” Does this argument still hold true if the sharks are abnormally aggressive and the number of attacks is increasing?

They say that because for the most part, it's factually accurate.

6. where did the Fischer boat (Shark Men Program) millions actually end up?

Almost certainly in Fischer's back pocket, I'm as little a fan of his as you are.

7. why do people like Gregg Oelofse talk in the press about “the small immaterial chumming by permitted cage divers”. The Fischer boat does actually tag the sharks and does not hang humans in the water. Is it not possible constant chumming by permitted cage divers is “hugely material” and actually the real cause of the problem?

When you say "the problem," do you mean the decrease in attacks since cage diving in South Africa began?

9. if chumming is no problem, why did Boyd stop the Fischer boat “5 ton chum permit” immediately after the Kogel bay attack?

That's a fair question actually. Most likely an immediate reaction to public pressure but that's for the man himself to answer.

10. why do we read articles saying it was impossible for the Fischer boat chum to reach Kogel bay because of the wind, also that the shark that attacked David Lillienfeld, (the Springbok body boarder who was tragically killed), wasn’t a tagged shark. Why are these people defending chumming and tagging so vehemently?

Why are you so vehemently against it?

11. a few years ago, after protecting alligators in Florida, their numbers increased logarithmically and they became a pest. Authorities in Florida were forced to institute a culling program. Can you please confirm that you are sure that the South African Great White population is not increasing logarithmically to dangerous totally unsustainable levels?

Alligators reproduce at a much. much faster rate than Great White Sharks and how can a naturally sized population of an animal be described as "unsustainable?"

12. in what way are the sharks actually being helped. If they are protected, how is the cage-diving helping them further? Can you be sure that the chum/cage-diving industry is not conditioning sharks to be abnormally, aggressive towards humans & therefore directly responsible for the recent increase in the number of shark attacks?

Tourism creates money, cage diving creates tourism, a regular and increasing annual financial boost to the South African economy means there is a financial benefit for a government to protect Great White Sharks. Without the financial support of tourism to see live sharks, what's left? The financial incentive in dead sharks and shark fishing.

Shark diving relies on live sharks.

13. why do the “experts” like to explain that the reason that the sharks are coming inshore and attacking more humans is because they have less fish to eat. This may be true, but how can our response be to just sit back and accept it. Why are there no measures being instituted to try to increase the fish or limit the shark population?

"Increasing the fish" would mean severe fishing quotas. Take those to the local commercial fishermen and let me know how you get on with that. Killing off the sharks would also potentially lead to a further decrease in fish stocks meaning even less for the fishermen to catch and a totally fucked up marine environment, meaning nobody wants to go in the water anymore, meaning tourists go elsewhere.

14. how can the controlled killing of “rogue”, territorial sharks near human attack areas and drum lining be regarded as best practise in Australia and other countries (where they have less attacks) and regarded as totally unacceptable in SA?

Because "rogue sharks" don't exist.

15. will the so-called “experts” including Alison Kock, explain why the usual excuse for a shark attacking a human used to be “the shark bite was simply exploratory and they made a mistake because it is clear that GWs don’t like to attack humans” has now been replaced by “the shark attacked the surfer THREE times until it tragically killed him”. Is this migration from “unfortunate mistake” to “relentless aggressive attack” not proof of negative conditioning caused by chum/cage-diving?

Shark attacks cannot be generically classified by Alison Kock or anyone else, each instance must be classified by its own specific and individual nature which depends on dozens, maybe even hundreds of external factors and elements. Some attacks are aggressive  in nature, some defensive, some exploratory, some with specific intention to kill and consume. This isn't restricted to South Africa, this is simply something that relates to sharks and shark attacks everywhere.

16. how can it be possible that society accepts the opinion of the so called “shark experts”, that “there is no proof that chummed sharks are becoming more aggressive” when no-one is searching for that proof and doing any of the required essential investigations. Is there “no proof” because perhaps everybody is conveniently avoiding looking for it?

People have tried to find a correlation and guess what, they couldn't. The proof that chumming sharks for cage diving makes sharks more aggressive doesn't get discussed because it doesn't exist.

It's not for the non-believer to prove God doesn't exist, it's for the believer to prove he does.

17. can it feasibly be true that “nothing has changed at all with regards to shark behaviour” if during a morning news bulletin on SA FM (Saturday the 28th of April), a “Great white increased activity warning” was issued for False bay. Is this not clear quantification that the shark situation is currently nowhere near being close to normal?

It's all relative. Sharks frequent False Bay less than they did fifty years ago because there are less sharks. In correlation with that, we now have more media, the Internet, camera phones etc meaning more sightings are reported and visible to a wider number of people. There aren't more sharks, just more people with the capability to tell people when they see one.

19. is it not possible that the great argument that “chumming/cage-diving brings in much needed foreign revenue” totally incorrect because this revenue is way less than the millions being lost because beach going tourists and locals are avoiding SA in their thousands because of shark attacks?(ask the Muizenberg and Fish Hoek businesses)

Please do an extensive study of every single business in the areas near cage dive operators, comparing their takings, profits and taxes paid to before the cage diving operations appeared and include with it, the numbers of people, local and foreign, visiting the beaches every year, then come back to us with your findings.

20. finally and most importantly, please tell us what you think about the following future quite feasible scenario: Those parties or experts who continue vehemently and blindly to defend the chum/cage-diving industry and thereby prevent its immediate shut down and the essential scientific investigation that is required, are thoroughly investigated themselves. If it is found that their behaviour was motivated by money and a blatant conflict of interest exists, that they are held liable for damages/compensation to injured parties and if possible within the law, prosecuted and punished if criminality can be proven. The size of the feeling of outrage and opposition to the chum/cage-diving industry amongst South Africans, throughout the country (just look in the newspapers) should not be underestimated. Raising the finance that will be required for the investigations and the necessary class actions, from so many people, is totally feasible. STOP THE CHUM/CAGE-DIVING INDUSTRY IMMEDIATELY!

Are you saying that everybody who supports the cage diving industry should be forced to justify their reasons and provide financial records so you can ascertain whether you think their motivation is financial or not? Is it not fair to say that the operators themselves are of course motivated by financial reasons as this is their business?

1. Stop dangling humans in cages from boats into chum trails immediately and use technology to allow the tourists to watch the sharks underwater from the chum boats.

But this still means the boats will be chumming...

2. Use modified “glass bottomed boat” technology to view the sharks underwater.

But this still means the boats will be chumming...

3. Keeping humans out of the water will stop the electromagnetic fields that they emit, being incorrectly associated with food by the sharks and their normal behaviour will stop being negatively modified.

What you're saying is that sharks will see humans in cages and associate them with food, meaning that innocent divers, surfers and swimmers, surfing, diving and swimming inside cages will always be associated as food. Read all that back to yourself...
4. Make sure that there is an immediate investigation instituted to quantify as far as is possible the balance between shark numbers and available food. After all, it is essential for this balance to be correct for future sustainability. The controlled culling of elephants in game parks to restore this balance is accepted as essential for their survival.

There you go with the culling again...

5. Cull (by helicopter, boat or drum lines) resident aggressive conditioned territorial sharks, as well as all sharks that are found lingering around shark attack sites for the first 3 hours after the attack, for a period of 5 years.
Eventually all negatively conditioned sharks will have been removed, the remaining shark population will return to normal behaviour patterns and the incidence of unfortunate attacks on humans, reduced to a minimum. This will result in a natural situation for ocean users and if managed correctly, continued protection of the environment and the Great Whites.

 Again with the culling...

This is nothing short of madness. Please tell me how your death squads will identify "conditioned" sharks.

This is about two things. The owner of the site "Justin Othersurfer" who posts on this Facebook group seems to me to be not a concerned citizen wanting fair play for all and "responsible cage diving," but is instead a surfer local to the area who wants to go surfing without the risk of shark attack and is using the Internet to make a noise.

I understand he doesn't want to get chomped by a shark, nobody does and that's understandable, it's just that the Internet allows misinformed, ill informed or just plain agenda led people to have a platform to preach to like minded souls.

The second aspect is that this has all come to the fore again because of Chris Fischer's insistence of taking "Shark Men" to South Africa. This was a PR disaster from day one, from what I can tell there was no real public outreach, their approach has been clumsy and arrogant and I can understand why local surfers and beach goers are pretty pissed off about them being there. Pretty much nobody wants them there doing what they do and for all the obvious benefits of greater understanding of shark movements for conservation, it's the way they do it which makes it so distasteful

That's the problem, when television and shark research collide, it has occasionally produced televised dog turds of epic proportions with "Shark Men" and "How Sharks Hunt" being the nadir. When the media get involved and stoke up tensions, it leads to every man and his dog wanting his say on something they don't actually understand and with social media being the thing of the 21st century, you don't have to go far to find a minefield of hyperbole, lies, untruths and twisted statistics that are used not to educate, but to influence.

There is no point me trying to convince you to think the same as I do, I don't want to, I just want to give you another option and side to this debate. I look at it the same way as the argument from certain women's and religious groups, that pornography causes rape. To lay the blame for what motivates individuals to do something as terrible as to commit rape on something as simple as the availability we have to watch two consenting adults do something completely natural, is of course, absurd. The reason for this argument is not that these people are concerning themselves with rape, it is because they want pornography banned and use the worst scare tactic they can think of to get their way. It disingenuous and also offensive.

The similarity here is that the motivating factor is surfers want cage diving banned and are using false information to gain support for their cause by relying on the fear of shark attack. Nobody wants anybody to be attacked by a shark, but we also don't need what veers from misinformation to absolute nonsense, being spread around gullible people to initiate support for shark culling and the closing down of economically sound businesses which support and influence positive movements in shark conservation.

Make your own minds up of course, use all the available scientific research out there if you want and if you want to discuss whether you agree or disagree, then please do so in the comments section here. As always, when I highlight what I see as something not so good, as done by others, I invite you to address your points here in public for respectful discussion so Justin, if you want to discuss any of my points, please feel free and welcome to do so below.

Have a good weekend everyone.

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The Sharkman said...

Great blog David. Thanks for sharing.

OfficetoOcean said...

Thank you Alex! I hope you are feeling better and on the road to recovery :)

Shark Diver said...

Wowza, that's a nice come back if I ever read one. Sadly the hysteria-mongers who trade in poorly produced websites and even worse spelling cannot be counted on to actually read.

In fact I may go as far as to say reading is not their strong suit, nor is critical thought.

Thanks for the fun begins.

Tropical Selkie said...

Nodding in complete agreement all the way through. Excellent response and summary. One quick note, a naturally-sized population can be 'unsustainable' (if in this context 'unsustainable' means somehow out-of-balance with its ecosystem) if the population is so large (as with Florida alligators) that it needs to be culled to keep the population from having negative impacts on prey populations and therefore, potentially, on the entire food web. I am NOT saying this is happening with any populations of sharks associated with cage diving (though NOAA does argue this point for recently increasing the yearly catch quota for dog fish in/around New England).

OfficetoOcean said...

Thank you for the kind posts Shark Diver and Tropical!

Just one slight point in response to your very correct point Tropical, that naturally sized populations can be unsustainable, and whilst I agree, that unsustainability is almost always borne from human interference and whereas you are absolutely right, my use of that was predominantly to address the semantics on a website which continuously contradicts itself.

I'm glad you enjoyed the article and of course, that you are in agreement! :)

Anonymous said...

hi thanks. great read. seriously, *shew* thanks for straightening out a few "facts" from that other nutty blog post.. you know the one.
i agree with 99.999% of your post (which is great because, as you say.. there are so many experts, it gets a bit confusing..)
so, just 2 small notes..
1. research has been done in OZ in areas that do have chumming. they noted a very small (very small) increase in the number of sharks in a "chummed area" and the amount of time they spend in that area (over years that is). they didnt note an increase in "aggression" just activity/beahaviour.
2. you say that "there is a financial benefit for a government to protect Great White Sharks."
there is yes, however South African waters are completely unpatrolled.. the fisheries vessels have been holed up doing nothing for a long time (red tape, corruption, the usual suspects).. and even the sports anglers pulling out Great Whites go unprosecuted (Leon Bekker - Mossel Bay and a few others).
So, although the great whites are protected (on paper so to speak) they are not protected in the water.
thats my 2c.
and ja, there is no such thing as a rogue shark.
and.. i hate shark men (horrible ergh)
thanks again.

OfficetoOcean said...

Hi Anon and thanks for your comment :)

Yep, I know the study to which you refer and I agree with your point about the study's findings that showed slightly higher numbers of individual sharks and that they stuck around a little longer. I think that is to be expected and I totally agree with it being perpetually monitored so you raise a valid point I perhaps should have included. I was concentrating more on the Cage Diving / Attack subject but the blog probably would have benefitted from the inclusion of the above!

The second point, I am again, in complete agreement. Protection on paper means nothing if it isn't enforced and the recent claims by the authorities that photos of fishermen landing White Sharks were not sufficient enough proof for criminal proceedings show that nowhere near enough is being done. South Africa has wealth beyond the dreams of anywhere else when it comes to numbers of shark species but that wealth is being controlled by people who are doing a woefully inadequate job of protecting it. I find it sad that in the linked site and associated web material, supporters point to Australia as what they feel should be the standard bearer and unfortunately, Australia is as weak as South Africa when it comes to the protection of sharks.

That is not an attack upon the people of Australia ad South Africa, far from it, as usual, it's the authorities and governments who are depressingly impotent when it comes to doing what needs to be done.

Thanks again for reading and taking the time to comment, your input is always welcome.

Anonymous said...

Hey OfficetoOcean, thanks for the feedback, and considering my notes.
And yes, what disturbs me a whole damn lot is the unenforced protection in SA.
It has been a reason I have opposed the Ocearch project, (bear with me), not only for the brutal mistreatment of the Whites for the drama of TV.. but also for a more creepy reason.. (hey call me a conspiracist)..
Have you noticed the devastating increase of fishermen targeting Great Whites in the Sea of Cortez?
My point or question (in summary) HAVE Shark Men (and similar shows) exposed birthing coves, migration routes & congregating areas to finners? or commercial fishermen in general? (via TV and the internet?)
As we know the ocean is being overfished.. and so, it seems (from reports) that the commercial fishermen in Guadalupe, Mexico and other areas, have suddenly cottoned on to targetting Great Whites!
How did they figure that out, when in the past.. even "experts" did not know how many Great Whites visited the Sea of Cortez?
Me thinks this is creepy.. & as SAs waters are unprotected, I personally dont want any "shark men-type" TV show exposing South Africa's Great Whites' movements..(cos this debacle cant be for "shark men" itself, surely Nat Geo own that name? and they arent sure what Ocearch are doing here).
Sorry, was going to keep it short.. got carried away.
thanks again

OfficetoOcean said...

I don't think they have been responsible for anything like that, I think, in the Sea of Cortez in paricular, it is more likely a case of targetted commercial fishing but not for finning as the GW is not a target for finning fleets although does suffer as bycatch and of course, the sharks fins will be removed but I think in Mexico it most likely is artesanal commercial fishermen targetting GWs for the meat, jaws and teeth.

I don't know that to be a fact though of course, it would be better directing the question to people on the ground in Mexico who know more of what is going on there but as you say, it is a disturbing development.

There is value in tagging studies because if they can confirm areas of migration for GWs it then provides the tools for attempts to protect areas as this is far more effective than protecting individual species.

I don't like the way Shark Men do it, I don't like that TV is involved in the way it is (Paul watson from Fast and Furious?! really?!) but for all the grief Dolmier got, I think his intentions were initially good.

I don't have the answers, I wish I did, but I do think campaigns to oppose things like Shark Men, and to support greater protection, should definitely be thought through and approached properly, these days, it's all too haphazard, rushed and clumsy. I think the wealth of information and wealth of misinformation, people get confused easily and understandably so!

Anonymous said...

I agree that tagging with the goal to protect an area is extremely valuable.
(if that area has the ability to actually protect itself, know what i mean?)

However, perhaps then the information should not be splashed over the internet, tv etc?
*sigh* I dont know.

What I do know is that I dont like ex-big-game anglers and movie stars using "conservation" as a ruse for getting permits to make tv shows (simply put).

and mmmmmm.. my feelings re Domeier are mixed. as he spearheaded the bait/exhaust/capture/SPOT/release methodology (currently being used by Fischer/Ocearch).
I know he has since stopped using this approach, cos SPOT is nasty & landing large sharks can cause injuries.. or maybe he just stopped because of the bad publicity around "Junior"?
but thats a whole other discussion.
thanks again for the insight (& really again, loved the article), night night

OfficetoOcean said...

Hey I am totally with you on the point you make in the third paragraph, seriously, wtf has Paul watson got to do with anything!? Shark Men appears to have been made with the lonely housewife demographic in mind. In fact, I'm in agreement on everything you say and thanks for your feedback, much appreciated!

Christopher said...

Can't these nutters be used as chum? There are too many of us on the planet for my liking anyway.

kempie said...

Sweet. Excellent. Well done.

Can't wait to see a response to your excellent article from one of the idiots on the other side of the "shark nets"....

One thing I would like to that man has been chumming the sea for hundreds and hundreds of years. Ever since man first went to sea, all waste, by-catch and dead bodies (and live humans from sinking ships, walking the plank etc) have all led to sharks following the ships and associating them with food. take a trip on one of the cruise liners and see how many bull sharks surround them when they are anchored off SA or Mozambique....Further, ask the local fishermen here in Durbs how their catch gets smashed by sharks. Whether they are on a surf ski or a fishing boats. And how many spearos have lost their catch to the sharks. Humans + fish = Food?? Does this lead them to attack humans? Of course not. ciao.

DiveBrat said...

Wow! Great Article! You have certainly done your homework! Puts things in perspective. Was not sure where I stood on this issue because of heated arguments for and against. I appreciate when people are passionate about an issue, but emotional postings lead to misinformation and confusion. As a diving instructor who has been on a baited dive I can only speak from my own experience. Seeing sharks (in this case tigers, blacktips and duskys) in their natural environment (without a cage) is beyond description. It has turned me from a general shark fan into a shark lover who will fight passionately for their conservation. I believe your research speaks for itself with regard to shark attack numbers since chumming started. My only problem is that there are no control measures in place or anybody to enforce such measures with regard to who can chum and where.

I can very much relate to your comments about people jumping on the bandwagon and people quoting 'facts' when those facts are actually speculation. This has recently come to the fore when the Natal Sharks Board was challenged about the sharks nets off our KZN coast and the actual 'protection' factor of such nets with regard to bather and surfer safety. I understand the average tourist's fear but based on facts regarding shark attacks at netted / non netted beaches feel strongly that they serve no purpose but to decimate our sealife, including sharks. Would like your opinion on this if you feel so inclined. In the meantime - keep up the great work! :-)

Dori Moreno said...

It amazes me that people think that they own the oceans and the species that roam freely within them. Comparing culling of great whites to culling of elephants in a restricted man made game reserve is ludicrous! How absolutely selfish and self centred can one get?
Great blog and response. Thanks for taking the time to educate and inform and give a different view.

Justin Othersurfa said...

Thanks for the great publicity :) You are right about Justin Othersurfa being... just another (concerned) surfer. One who is equally not concerned about your very well-worded views on the matter.

Simple point. We Ocean Users are not happy about chumming for Great Whites in South Africa. Snidely waffle on all you like about why we should all just shut up and love the chumming of Great Whites, but nothing changes.

OfficetoOcean said...

Hi Justin, please bear in mind, I am also an ocean user, as I presume, are the people above supporting what I have posted so you can't claim to represent everyone. You have your views to which you are totally entitled and I support you having an outlet for them but to accuse me of "snidely waffling on" is a bit unfair.

I was hoping you'd respond and we could have an intelligent discussion but you haven't addressed a single point I have made in this article which, to be honest, I find happens a lot when I post articles that could be deemed as controversial.

Also, I put ownership on everything, I don't use a pseudonym and I actively encourage people in disagreement to address me in a public forum such as this, without anonymity, to discuss the points I raise with a view to intelligent and respectful discussion about important topics relating to sharks.

As of yet, nobody has taken me up on this which is a shame.

I don't think you should just "shut up" and I don't think you should just "love the chumming of Great Whites," all I am saying is if you are in disagreement with something, you maybe shouldn't set up a website and just make stuff up to back up your argument because it renders your argument null and void. Your own site actually provides the information which contradicts what you are saying!

Surfers were among the first to speak up for sharks and are amongst the most vociferous supporters of shark conservation, I understand you don't want to get bitten, that's totally normal, saying that, I don't want to get bitten either and if there was any merit in your argument I would support you but there isn't so I can't.

Thanks for taking the time to read and comment though, I genuinely do appreciate it

MH said...

I scuba dive recreationally and professionally and would just like to say that this is a very informative article and I am now less ignorant about this topic. Thank you and keep it up.

PS:You should blog everywhere so people are not misinformed by ignorant twats

OfficetoOcean said...

Thanks for your comment Kempie and yes, I agree totally as that is a point I have made here and in other articles myself, many, many times.

Since the first boat was invented, humans have fed sharks from boats and sharks have associate maritime traffic with a possible easy meal. As long as there are boats on the water, there will be human waste in the water and the sharks will always be grateful benefactors.

Ditto beachcasters and spearos which are both more likely to attract a shark towards a beach used by bathers and surfers than a cage diving operation miles and miles away.

Thanks again for your comment!

George Askew said...

A nice balanced accurate response.
But Why Oh Why do you all have to use these pathetic 'Avatars'?
Why can`t you all use your real names? What are you ashamed / afraid of? That someone may seek you out and make life uncomfortable?
Please - all of you - grow up and stand proudly behind your names.
[See - like that - for all to see.!!]

OfficetoOcean said...

Totally agree on the effect actually seeing sharks has on people and I have seen myself, dozens of new and passionate shark conservationists created by a single shark dive.

It is an emotive subject and whereas I support shark diving and shark tourism, I have to add that I also support strict regulation, monitoring and best practice procedures to ensure others are not put at risk by baiting and that the divers on these trips are not in any way unknowingly contributing to practises which negatively impact sharks.

Not all shark diving tours are ethical and professional, far from it and it is for us as divers, to make sure operators like those are not allowed to continue as they are.

As for the nets? I hate them, always have. It's an archaic last resort borne from a period of ignorance which SA and parts of Australia inexplicably still cling to. Most sharks are caught on the inside of the nets as well meaning those sharks could easily have attacked bathers if they wanted but they didn't. The fact remains that the Natal Sharks Board profits from dead sharks and that is why the nets are still in place.

Thanks for your comment!

OfficetoOcean said...

Thank you Dori and thanks for taking the time to comment!

OfficetoOcean said...

Thank you MH, I try to blog as often as possible and this blog does have quite a big regular readership. I'm not afraid to give my opinions but I always encourage people to go and learn for themselves as well, I like that this blo is encouraging a healthy run of feedback as I think it's an important issue.

OfficetoOcean said...

Hi George

Not sure if that's directed at myself or the people commenting but the name of this blog relates to the name of the series of films I am making as all content on here has relevence to that.

I certainly don't hide away as my real name (David Diley) is attached to this blog and the website and I always ensure to put ownership on anything I say as I agree, it's a good way forward.

I have no problem in people using whatever names they like here but I do sometimes wish the people who disagree with what I say (here or online in other places) would show the same transparency as myself but hey, everyone has a right to anonymity :)

Thanks again, glad you like the article!

shaz said...

Heya. its ANON from last night :)
I referenced (linked to) your article from a few places.. so I think you may be getting lotsa comments today.
Which is great. I thought your article and all the facts (as well as your opinions) would be valuable for many to read.

Aside: re NETS.. pls consider (if you on FB) joining this group (for discussing shark nets):!/groups/antisharknets/
..currently collecting info, opinions, images, etc. ie arming myself to challenge NSB (Natal Sharks Board) directly.. logically and NOT emotionally.
And pushing 2 points publically (cos yes, many many beachgoers are very afraid of sharks);

1. Sharks are not the only marine-life being killed on a daily basis (legally!) So, because people react more to seeing murdered dolphins and whales (sorry, its a fact), my feeling is that that angle (the more "unscary" creatures being killed) would be a major part of my public push to take a stand v the NSB gill nets.
Another angle here is the rumour that NSB sell on the dead sharks to finning-syndicates/Far East. That is totally unacceptable.. they need to own up to it, and again I think there will be a public outcry for that very fact.

2. The gill-nets are not as effective as the NSB would have the public believe, and there are viable alternatives that NSB must look at asap; Exclusions/early warnings, etc.
(seriously look at, as they often waffle on about doing something and nothing changes.. Again, there is a lot of politics, verging on corruption, involved behind the scenes).

I firmly believe (unfortunately), that some form of "shark deterrant" will always be demanded on the SA KZN coast (I hate saying that, but public fear of sharks is a reality).
BUT that doesnt mean the NSB cant do a thorough and detailed cost comparison for viable alternatives.. as the "gill-nets" must go.

(sorry, rushed)
keep up the awesome work OfficetoOcean.


OfficetoOcean said...

Hi Shaz

I totally agree re: the nets and the allegations that NSB profiteer from the meat and fins have been around for some tme and as yet, remain unrefuted. It did seem odd that (again allegedly) Geremy Cliffe was very keen to recommend the Seychelles implement netting after the two attackes there last year.

Anyway, that's all by the by as until there is irrefutable proof of any of what I mention, nothing will change.

What is good to see, is more people like yourself speaking out about the nets. A safe alternative for sharks and people would be an enormous step in the right direction.

Heinz Modricky said...

Great article. I've been a recreational diver in these waters (between Strand and Cape Hangklip) since the mid seventies, diving for kreef and pearlys' when it was legal and shooting fish around the reefs. About ten years ago, it became popular for divers to bait their kreef catch, each taking a fish head or two tied to a line with a bouy, not to mention the tens of boats at a time in a single bay, each throwing on average 5 nets, each with two or three heads in the net. I reckon the amount of "chum" on an average crayfishing day around the Cape must have exceeded a ton of chum.

Similarly, the "fact" that peeing in your wetsuit also attracts sharks, had me thinking until I got to think about the thousands on Strand beach on an average summers day, most who cannot deny relieving themselves during a swim, and I've never seen that attract a shark either.

These attacks are simply very unfortunate events when they happen. Respect and condolences to all who have lost loved ones to the sea.

OfficetoOcean said...

Thanks Heinz, brilliant name and a brilliant comment! :D

Justin Othersurfa said...

David, on re-reading your page this evening I think it only fair that I respond. I think its great when people are talking about the issue of chumming and opening up more forums for debate.

First and foremost, I am not a scientist, I am simply a daily ocean lover and user on South Africa's southernmost peninsula, who is growing concerned at the possible ramifications of the human/shark/chum relationship that is occuring in the same water I (choose to) frequent.

I use a pseudonym for two reasons. The obvious proponents of the human/shark/chum interaction issue are the shark cage dive companies operating, very profitably, daily in this manner along the SW coast, and by vocally OPPOSING and working to have them change the way they do business, there is some risk involved when threatening a mans livelihood.
I also work in a closely-linked sensitive industry, whereby doing what im doing would surely cost me my job.

So Justin Othersurfa it shall remain.

Some points I'd like to refer to from your piece;

The article you link/reference to our blog, was clearly stated as being something that was anonymously emailed to our website. It was not written by myself or Surfers For Responsible Shark Cage Diving, but i do wholeheartedly agree with the vast majority of the writers points, and thought it worth posting.

Yes, the data on our website might be just-a-little-bit sensationalist, but we are not trying to write a PHD, we are voicing a commonly shared view amongst local waveriders in a way that will encourage people to look a little bit closer at the impact (now and future) of a sustained local chum-based shark cage dive industry.

What really bothers me is how hard people are willing to go in arguing in favour of an activity that is so obviously a bad idea, and could cause negative, possibly irreversible results. Up to a year ago it was commonly quoted by the scientific and SCD communities that chumming the waters regularly had ZERO impact on Great White behaviour. Then along came Barry Bruce and Russell Bradford of CSIRO and their study on effects of berley (chum) and Great Whites on Neptune Island, and their study confirmed that a number of changes to sharks behaviour were directly attributed to the cage-dive/chum operation.

Now that argument has been solved/proven/dropped. But yet still people vehemently fight for the right to chum for Great Whites. Will it only be when a conclusive enough study, based on (how many?) more people being attacked/killed by sharks with direct evidence proving the chum guilty, that then the scientific community will accept what is quite possibly taking place. Why not err on the side of caution, and have a moratorium on chumming Great Whites, just until more is known about the effects?

We are not against the entire concept of shark cage diving, just the chum part, and the dangling a human in a cage bit too. Why not offer glass-bottom boat tours out to the seal islands, and allow the tourists to observe the sharks predating NATURALLY, from the safest vantage point of being onboard. No chum, no cage, no negative interraction, just a beautiful experience of observing these great creatures in their natural way.

Perhaps this argument between the two sides will never be resolved, unless a study proves one corner wrong. I am most happy to be wrong, its being right that is a scary concept. Its all well to debate an intellectual topic, but unless you spend hours immersed in the cold ocean, with nothing more than a layer of neoprene for protection, you are not as accutely concerned about the possible ramifications of your business/research/science project.

Justin Othersurfa

Surfers For Responsible Shark Cage Diving

OfficetoOcean said...

No worries on the pseudonym, I can understand that and as I said n response to a previous comment, everyone is welcome to anonymity here if that is what they want.

The data on the website isn't really a problem as you are merely listing the stats provided by ISAF, there is no problem with that at all but surely you must see that those stats contradict what is said about a massive increase in attacks since cage diving started, what those stats show is a marked DECREASE in attacks.

To be fair, you can't claim something is "obviously a bad idea" when all the data and research collected actually states otherwise. There are huge benefits to cage diving and whereas I agree that in an ideal world, we wouldn't need chumming, we could just go out and they'd approach the boats naturally but that isn't something which can be guaranteed, people wouldn't pay and the industry would collapse. We also don't live in an ideal world unfortunately.

You can't rail against something then complain when people respond with equal vigour, especially if they are backing up what they say with provable facts. The study in the Neptune Islands is a good one but what does it show? That a few more sharks have turned up and they stay a bit longer and that the chumming hasn't affected their behaviour anywhere else or in a way which is damaging to the sharks or people.

The study proved nothing other than the sharks at Neptune hang around a bit longer than they did before. If you want any empirical evidence about chumming and attacks, the existing data shows that chumming has had no effect on the attack rate other than coinciding with a drop in the number of attacks. 21 years of cage diving in SA and zero proof of any impact on attacks other than the data showing that attacks have decreased.

Glass bottom boats wouldn't work because you can't guarantee sightings (unless you chum) and as for surface only tours, they do exist I believe, not a bad idea actually just watching the natural predation.

Humans in a cage does not create a connection with humans in the sharks minds, lose that idea immediately because you're wasting your time and where are the "negative interactions?" No harm to the sharks, no harm to the punters, where's the negativity?

I appreciate the effect the presence of sharks must have on surfers there and contrary to what you say, it does concern me, I don't want people being attacked by sharks. I'm also not a laboratory bound scientist or even a scientist at all, the stuff I do with sharks is in the water, like you, so I appreciate the difference like you do.

You want to surf, you want to surf without being attacked, you, I presume, like most surfers, appreciate you are merely a visitor in their home and have no right to dictate the rules so what you don't need is people making things worse for you right? I totally get it and I understand, but the chumming at Dyer Island etc is not increasing the risk of attack for you, if those operations close down, your risk of attack will be exactly the same.

I don't represent the cage diving industry, I have no financial stake in it, I have no side other than the well being of sharks in conjunction with greater understanding in humans and if I thought chumming was bad I would not hesitate to say so so I'm not biased, I should point that out, I gain nothing from chumming being allowed in South Africa.

Thank you for taking the time to comment again and I appreciate your honesty.

Falco said...

Great Article, very informative discussion. I must agree with Heinz, the amount of chumming going on by ordinary industries, i.e local fishing ( cleaning guts out on boat), crayfishing etc, far exceeds any chumming by cage diving operators, who, correct me if I am wrong, are allowed 25kg of chum per day.

Anonymous said...

Phew, need to re read before committing keyboard to cyberspace. Having said that, well done on a great article, I am an ocean user and as such have huge respect for the ocean (I and my kids are SCUBA divers, we boadyboard and swim, my boys and I fish). When that respect is lost is when accidents happen.


Anonymous said...

"People feed sharks in The Bahamas, big badass sharks and smaller Reef sharks and The Bahamas averages 0-3 attacks per year."

From july 2011 - perhaps it is best to stick to "Facts"? LOL

OfficetoOcean said...

Hi Anonymous, I'm not sure what relevance that link has to this article as it is an article about shark fishing and not what is discussed in my article, dive related shark feeding, eco tourism and the myths about its links to increased risk of shark attack.

It's always good to stick to facts though I agree so if I ever do an article on the shark fishing ban in Bahamas, I now have this link to use as a no doubt hugely useful resource thanks to you.

Thanks for reading :)

Falco said...


I'm attaching this link (ahem!) to a surfer site so we can see what others think. Please feel free to negatively comment there as much as possible, I feel a couple of commenters there have the wrong attitude and the article slants everything unfavourably. A slight correction in attitude, i.e. more deference to the fact that we are the intruders in their environment would do everyone, including the sharks, a world of good.