Shew, turns out fishermen are just as passionate about their sport as surfers! It all started with a comment I made on Facebook on a picture of a guy landing a shark at Pollock last week.
Happened to mention in the comment that there was a proposed fishing ban along the bays beaches so we maybe wouldn’t see too much of that in the future, as I did think it was a kak idea to be fishing for, and landing sharks right where people were swimming and surfing.
Well, turns out I was obviously one of the few people that knew about that proposed ban – cos next thing everyone was going ballistic.
Classic case of “Don’t shoot the messenger” ou’s! Peeps were going on about how they should just ban surfing then and whadawhadawhada. The fisherman jumped to the (incorrect) assumption that the surfers were behind the ban cos of the incident where the shark was brought up onto Pollock last week and that we informed the beach manager about it.
K, so let’s get the facts straight. Surfers have in no way, shape or form had ANYTHING to do with the proposed fishing ban. I found out about it months ago when I attended one of the beach forum meetings hosted by the beach manager, and the proposed Beachfront Aquatic Safety Zone (BASZ) plan was one of the items on the agenda.
Included in the overall BASZ plan was mention of a proposed fishing ban from Fence to Rincon. I have no idea who originally proposed the ban and why it was proposed. I would assume it has to do with bather safety related to sharks, which is a pretty valid concern.
So the proposed fishing ban was on the drawing board LONG before last weeks incident at Pollock.
The BASZ plan still has to be finalised, and then will be made available for public comment and a public participation process, so the fishermen will have the opportunity to voice their objections.
Personally I don’t think chumming for sharks off the rock at Avo’s is a good idea if there’re people surfing or swimming nearby. If it’s crappy sea conditions, and no-one’s in the water nearby, then no problem.
Sharks have an acute sense of smell, and will most definitely pick up a bunch of shredded pillies being thrown into the water. As local shark researcher, Matt Dickens explained to me when I interviewed him for an article I’ve just written for the Bomb Surf mag on Great Whites...if they're just cruising about minding their own business, and pick up even the faintest trace of a smell in an otherwise benign environment, they'll head over for a look.
So it’s not a case of them going “Ah, I smell food, I’m gonna go chow”…..but rather, they’re just super quizzy creatures, and they’re now suddenly smelling something, so they’re just gonna head over and check it out.
The hiccup comes that if there’re swimmers or surfers in the area that they’re coming to check out, they might just check em out too! Again, these animals are inquisitive as hell, so if they spot something and they don’t know what it is, they might want to go over and check it out. Now if we see something that’s new to us, we can pick it up, turn it around, have a look. The shark doesn’t have hands, so for him to suss something out he has to use his mouth.
Which turns into quite bad luck if you’re what he wants to investigate – cos we aren’t so well equipped to deal with 3 rows of razor sharp teeth suddenly getting embedded into us! 9 times out of 10 they’ll let go once they’ve bit us….cos it was generally an investigative bite to start with – and they discover we don’t taste nice at all, so they spit us out.
Most deaths related to shark bites are from blood loss afterwards, not the shark actually trying to eat the victim. We are NOT on the menu, but if we are out there in the food chain, chances are we might get investigated.
And this is where the issue of chumming becomes a problem. If you’re drawing more sharks to an area because they’re picking up traces of smell, more sharks means a greater possibility of a shark human encounter. Basic stats.
Again, not cos they’re out to eat us, but they just wanna pick us up and see what we are – kinda like a lil kid picking up a new toy!
So from that perspective I do think the beach manager has a point to want to ban fishing if it’s going to be responsible for bringing more sharks inshore close to where the bathing beaches are. It’s certainly not going to bring more sharks into the bay, all its doing is attracting those sharks that are already in the general vicinity to a particular area where there happens to be bathers.
We’d be ignorant to assume there aren’t sharks in the bay, there’re plenty – it’s speculated that Algoa Bay actually has the highest number of Juvenile Great Whites in South Africa (check out the interview I did with local shark expert Matt Dicken here). So they’re there, fishing or no fishing doesn’t change that. BUT, attracting them to an area where bathers are just doesn’t make sense, because of the possibility of increasing the chances of a human shark interaction. Don’t like the word “shark attack” as it assumes the sharks attacking us, mostly he isn’t, he’s just checking us out.
It’s a tough one, cos I don’t think all fishing should be banned near swimming beaches, just fishing for shark (and even then, not all sharks will bite us. Raggies are lazy-ass things that wouldn't bite you unless you stand on it by mistake, or he swims into you cos he's half asleep!) – but then how do you monitor who’s fishing for edibles vs inedibles, and raggies vs great whites? That’s the challenge the municipality faces, which is maybe why it’s opting for the overall ban, as it’s easier to monitor.
I have no idea what the outcome of all this is going to be, so guess we’ll have to wait and see….but certainly don't let the fishermen give you lip about the surfers being responsible for it.....now you can give em the facts.