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02 Jul 2018

Shark net debate continues

Tamlyn Jolly ( Zululand Observer) Picture: According to researchers, the shark nets at Newark Beach in Richards Bay are responsible for the most Humpback dolphin deaths countrywide

THE shark net debate has reached City of uMhlathuze Exco level after questions were raised over the viability of the local municipality footing the bill for a provincial service. The matter was recently discussed at the Community Services Portfolio Committee meeting, where the KZN Sharks Board (KZNSB) presented its case in favour of shark nets in Richards Bay. When the matter was brought up for discussion at Exco, both councillors Zikhali and Fourie requested it be referred back to the portfolio committee.

They were in agreement that the matter warrants further research into the volume of by-catch versus the effectiveness of the nets preventing shark attacks. Of the 15 Zululand shark attacks between 1955 and 2011, four (none fatal) occurred at Richards Bay beaches – with one still disputed as to whether it was a shark attack – while the rest have occurred elsewhere in the region. The nets, however, are responsible for killing a great number of marine species, including turtles, sharks, and the rare and endangered Humpback dolphin.

According to researchers, the shark nets at Newark Beach are responsible for the most Humpback dolphin deaths countrywide. The municipality is querying the nature of the agreement between the city and the Sharks Board, specifically whether or not it is correct that the city pays for services rendered by an entity which is funded by the KZN Department of Economic Development,
Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA). The city currently pays in excess of R2-million a year for the daily removal of catches and maintenance of the shark net equipment – a big spend given the extremely low risk of shark attacks.

It was recommended that the Community Services and City Development departments submit a letter to EDTEA MEC Sihle Zikalala, requesting his department to subsidise services rendered by KZNSB, as council will not be in a position to pay the monthly fees once the current contract expires.
‘I support this recommendation and I strongly believe the monies can be better spent elsewhere,’ said Cllr Zikhali.

‘We also need further research into the necessity of having shark nets at all, given the low risk of shark attacks shown by our research, and the fact that no other beaches in our region have shark nets.’

Cllr Fourie said, ‘We were given only one side of the story from the Sharks Board, and I believe we need a presentation from the dolphin researchers in order for us to fully understand the subject to make an informed decision.

‘The presence of Humpback dolphins at our beaches is a drawcard for visitors and, given the fact that five dolphins were killed in recent months in the Newark Beach nets, I don’t see how we can support this financially.’

City Mayor Mdu Mhlongo agreed with the sentiment of more research being required so council can undertake an informed resolution. The matter was referred back to the portfolio committee.