Coast KZN

09 Apr 2021

SA’s shark and ray list promotes biodiversity

Reece Reid (Zululand Observer) Picture: Dave Ebert and the flapnose houndshark

South Africa’s first ever dedicated checklist of sharks, rays, skates, and ghost sharks has finally been published.

David Ebert (AKA ‘The Lost Shark Guy’), a research associate at the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB), published the checklist after undertaking the South African Shark and Ray Protection Project. Supported by SAIAB, the project was implemented by WILDOCEANS (a programme of the WILDTRUST), and funded by the Shark Conservation Fund.

Zululand is a renowned shark territory, but this time it’s not about rugby! The list, entitled An annotated checklist of the chondrichthyans of South Africa, includes sharks found in and around local waters, as well as their IUCN Red List status that outlines their risk of extinction.

A shark species that is endemic to the area is the flapnose houndshark or Scylliogaleus quecketti, which is found between Richards Bay and East London, and is, on rare occasions, caught by rock and surf anglers.

The list includes other iconic Zululand shark species, including the spotted ragged-tooth shark. The adult females of this species move into southern and central KZN waters in spring in order to mate. They spend the majority of their 9-10 month gestation period in the warm waters between Richards Bay and Kosi Bay before returning to the Eastern Cape to birth offspring. Although listed as a vulnerable species since 2005, it is still sometimes caught by shore anglers.

The whitespotted wedgefish (formerly giant guitarfish) or Rhynochobatus djidensis was previously thought to be widely distributed in the Indian Ocean. However, it has subsequently been discovered that there is a similar species north of the equator. In summer, this species moves southwards from Mozambique and Tanzania, and is commonly caught in Zululand during these months. This species has been listed as critically endangered since 2018 owing to the market for its meat and fins.

The Zambezi shark or Carcharhinus leucas, commonly known as a bull shark, derives its South African name from frequenting the Zambezi River and other large river systems on South Africa’s east coast. Newborns are often found in Zululand rivers such as the uMlalazi and uMhlathuze.

St Lucia estuary was historically the most important habitat for newborns, however, the mouth was only artificially re-opened in February this year. This species was listed as near-threatened in 2005.

This comprehensive list can help South Africans protect endangered marine life and ensure a healthy level of biodiversity, crucial to all life on the planet.

To access the list, visit: or