Sharks play an essential rol in the health of our oceans

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Kimberley saw her first great white shark!

In the first two days, I explored Cape Town and visited the Two Oceans Aquarium, before I was joined by other volunteers and we were picked up to go to Kleinbaai, near Gansbaai.

August is a stormy month in South Africa (many ‘no sea days’) and as the seas were too rough to go out anyway, we travelled to Mossel Bay and visited a game park along the way, where we saw elephants, giraffes, cheetahs, rhinos, lions and many more animals.

And only on Friday, August 17 we made a cage dive with a local dive shop in Mosselbay and I saw my first white shark!!! It is such a magical moment to see such a mighty beautiful animal for the first time. It was a young female of 2 to 2.5 m long. Once she got to the boat we quickly jumped into the cage, but unfortunately, we could not spot her from the cage. After being in the water for 40 minutes it became too cold and I went out. The shark did not come back after that. This was a learning moment: you simply do not have control over nature, the sharks come and go. 

On Saturday morning, August 18, another volunteer was picked up at 7 o’clock in the early morning for a dive along the coast at the dive site ‘Dollose’. This dive was AWESOME!!! There was so much fish and we even spotted two different species of sharks!! The puffadder shark and the dark shy shark. There was coral, there were egg capsules from the last shark and lots of fish, but also a very strong current! You had to stay in balance to avoid bumping into anything. After the dive we returned to Kleinbaai. 

Sunday, August 19, it was still too rough to go out. We enjoyed a presentation by our own marine biologist Tom Slough. He told us about the anatomy of the sharks, their behavior and threats. The sharks are under pressure from many threats such as overfishing, ghost nets, longlines, entangling nets and are often also bycatch.
In case of overfishing, the food source for sharks is elinimated when you overfish the population of prey fish for seals. Then the seal population is reduced, and the white sharks have less prey.

Ghost nets are lost nets or thrown overboard by fishermen. The net is still floating in the sea for hundreds of years and thus continues to ‘fish’’: so-called ‘ghost fishing. Many seals, sea turtles, dolphins and sharks stay here and drown. Longlines are used here regularly in Africa, the lines can be 100 km long with a hook with bait every 5 meters. Not only the target species are caught in these, but also many other species of animals. Gillnets are used to shield a piece of beach from the sea to prevent sharks from entering the bathing area. Unfortunately, many sharks (and other animals) just get entangled in the nets and die. In trawls (large trawls with chains to catch turbot and / or sole), 80% is not a turbot or sole, but a different species. This bycatch has a very small chance of survival and is thrown overboard again.

 

Then we watched a documentary that connects with the story of Tom (the anatomy and behaviour of the shark) and visited the penguin sanctuary, here was a whale frame full of plastic: a perfect illustration of a very new kind of threat to our oceans.

 

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