World Oceans Day and International Year of the Shark commemorated in Gansbaai, Western Cape
8 Jun 2009
The conservation of sharks came under the spotlight today, 8 June 2009, as South Africa celebrated World Oceans Day under the theme, "One Ocean, One Climate, One Future," in Gansbaai, Western Cape. South Africa's commitment to shark conservation is evident by South Africa being the first country to provide protected status for the great white shark species in 1991. The seriousness with which South Africa views the threats facing sharks is demonstrated by South Africa making clear its intention to terminate the pelagic shark fishery.
The theme, "One Ocean, One Climate, One Future," is apt as it highlights that the ocean can never be separated from the fight to combat climate change. Climate change is also the focus of National Environment month proceedings. The theme is pertinent as it emphasizes the critical role of the ocean in maintaining the Earth's climate and reminds us that ocean life is vulnerable to climate change. A healthy ocean is vital as it helps absorb excess carbon dioxide, provides jobs and food to people the world over.
2009 has also been declared International Year of the Shark in a move meant to raise global awareness about sharks and the threat of extinction faced by certain species. Sharks are regarded as one of the oceans most magnificent, oldest and probably most misunderstood of marine creatures. Sharks play a vital role as apex predators in balancing the marine ecosystem.
In terms of South Africa's intention to terminate the pelagic shark fishery, no further rights were subsequently allocated for this fishery in 2005. The fishery is in its final phase of termination with seven companies currently operating under exemption.
Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Buyelwa Sonjica said, "the intention this year is that the exemptions holders will be allocated fishing rights in the swordfish and tuna longline fishery where pelagic sharks will be managed as a bycatch species. The number of rights holders in the demersal shark longline fishery has also been drastically reduced to only six right holders as a precautionary measure, and further reductions will be determined based on the stock status of the directed species."
Minister Sonjica emphasised that already South Africa had taken a lead in being the first country globally to provide protected status for the great white shark in 1991, which has resulted in increased nature-based tourism or ecotourism and contributing at least R50 million per year through the shark cage diving industry. Proposals are also being made that the Great White Sharks should be marketed as part of the big seven she said referring to the big five with two marine animals, sharks and whales being included.
Focusing on the country's research efforts Sonjica added that as South Africa we have progressed in our understanding of the importance of sharks and for several years we have committed to study these animals both for improving our understanding of their often secretive behaviour and for understanding our marine ecosystems. Sharks are top predators and feed at the top of food chains. By monitoring their condition individually and at the population level, we can create a health index of the layers below them that they feed on.
As part of the celebratory activities media were also taken shark cage diving where they experienced these magnificent creatures up close. Media were also shown how the tagging of sharks is conducted for research purposes aimed at collecting further data on these secretive sea creatures.
In 1997 the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) developed an International Plan of Action for the conservation and management of sharks (IPOA-sharks). The IPOA-sharks is a voluntary instrument that was elaborated within the framework of the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fishers, to which South Africa is a signatory. The IPOA-sharks encourages all states to draft national plans that would ensure the conservation and management of sharks and their long-term sustainable use (NPOA-sharks). South Africa is in the process of finalising the NPOA-sharks.
Background on World Oceans Day
The concept for World Oceans Day was proposed in 1992 by the Government of Canada at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and it had been celebrated every year on June 8 since then, and subsequently officially been declared by the United Nations which marked a significant step in conserving and protecting our world's ocean. World Oceans Day provides an opportunity each year to celebrate our world ocean and people's connection to the sea
Why should we celebrate World Oceans Day?
The world's ocean:
* generates most of the oxygen we breathe
* helps feed us
* regulates our climate
* cleans the water we drink
* global trade is dominated be sea transport
* offers us a pharmacopoeia of potential medicines
* provides limitless inspiration!
Yet for too long, human society has taken the world's ocean for granted.
International year of the shark
Recent findings of the Global Shark Assessment indicate that at current rates of decline, extinction of the most threatened species of shark is forecast in 10 to 15 years. In large regions, species that were once numerous have fallen to one percent of their original numbers, in a massacre comparable to that of the buffalo on the North American plains 200 years ago, but on a much larger scale. For example, in the Mediterranean Sea there is a 97 to 99,5% decline in shark numbers.
The threats sharks face in this modern world of human domination is daunting. The enormous scale of commercial longline fishing and bycatch, the methodical massacre for shark fin soup, habitat loss and destruction, particularly of nursery areas, pollution, and a variety of smaller operations that have great impact taken together, are the main threats to the future of sharks.
For media queries contact:
Cell: 083 490 2871
Cell: 082 829 3917
Cell: 082 521 9614
Issued by: Department of Water and Environmental Affairs
8 June 2009
Issued by: Department of Environmental Affairs
8 Jun 2009
[ Top ]