Healthy oceans, a thriving marine life and protected sharks will all be supported on land and sea at this year’s Paddle Out for Sharks conservation platform, held in conjunction with the international Silence of the Sharks underwater protest taking place this Saturday at Shelly Beach (Protea Banks) and Scottburgh (Aliwal Shoal).
This is the fifth annual Paddle Out for Sharks initiative, and this year it will include support for the international campaign, Silence of the Sharks, started by David Pilosof – international underwater photographer and diver – following research revelations that more than 100 million sharks are killed annually, pushing the shark community to the brink of extinction.
These conservation initiatives – endorsed by UGU South Coast Tourism – will celebrate this year’s World Oceans Day theme, ‘healthy oceans, healthy planets’ with the Paddle Out for Sharks focusing, in particular, on the destruction caused by illegal fishing trawlers.
This issue has recently been highlighted in South Africa media, outlining how illegal fishing trawlers are costing the country R60 billion annually in decimation of marine life, because of a lack of capacity to control these activities. The protest action on 4 June will aim to create awareness about these marine atrocities.
Mark Addison, world renowned shark expert, said the severity of the situation cannot be emphasised enough, stating that the rise of illegal fishing, as well as legal fishing, is the biggest threat to these animals.
“The figure for the illegal take along our coastline is probably vastly understated and there is no doubt that even at a quarter of the value of the legal catch, as a benchmark, we are losing some seriously valuable resources – dead or alive every day,” he explained. “Sharks in our coastal waters are also a by-catch casualty and this is a major threat to the sharks on our coast. By–catch numbers are reportedly upwards of 50 million sharks caught worldwide in commercial fisheries each year.”
In addition, Addison said a lack of reliable scientific information and management strategies, climate change and overall general public apathy to this disaster were all contributing factors towards the depletion of our shark life.
“Essentially we are the greatest threat to sharks and only we can do something about it,” said Addison.
“We want to make the 4 June a day we turn the tide for sharks.”
In an effort to highlight this information, there are a number of land and ocean-based activities lined up for this year’s Paddle Out for Sharks initiative at both venues for everyone wanting to get involved.
Shelly Beach will be a hive of activities thanks to African Dive Adventures who will be hosting children from St Martin’s School for the Disabled on the day with a great line-up of informative activities planned.
This includes a boat trip with CFreaks and African Dive Adventures – weather permitting – as well as a tour by the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) and a talk by legendary instructor, Karen Tredger, on sharks and their importance to the ecosystem.
The children will also be given a ride on bikes with the KZN President’s Club as well as participating in a fun sandcastle building competition – led by a professional builder – as well as face painting. Each child will also receive donated snacks and T-shirts on the day.
African Dive Adventures will invite the general public onto the boats to celebrate the sharks and explain the need for shark protection. Aquaplanet will be hosting the divers on the day and will assist by taking the Silence of the Sharks banner on their dive. They will also be overseeing any children who would like to snorkel in the tidal pool. The shark-friendly fishing boat, Viking Extreme, will be on hand for support throughout.
Surfers, bodyboarders, paddlers, divers, jet skiers and all ocean–lovers are invited to participate in the Paddle Out for Sharks along with South African surfing legend Heather Clark (pictured).
All surfers are to meet at 6.30am and the public at 6.45am. For more information, contact Beulah at 082 456 7885.
The shore-based event at Scottburgh Main Beach will start at 8am with a talk by shark scientist, Jess Escobar on the plight of the sharks. 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.
Paddle Out for Sharks participants will gather at backline off Scottburgh Beach at 08h00 sharp and at the end of the ceremony, 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, everyone will descend one to two metres with the banners. Once the activities at Scottburgh back line have come to an end, scuba divers and expert free divers will then head a few kilometers out to sea to Aliwal Shoal and descend with the banners to a 10-metre depth.