White shark netting in Richards Bay confirmed

SOCIAL media has been abuzz this week with news of a 2.5m Great White Shark having been caught in the shark nets off the coast of Richards Bay.

While there is speculation about the origin of the photograph being used along with the report, a spokesman from the Richards Bay KZN Sharks Board (KZNSB) offices confirmed the unfortunate netting.

‘This is a fairly regular occurrence, and these sharks are common on this stretch of the coastline. The animal had sadly died in the nets.’

Richards Bay’s Alkandstrand Beach is protected by both shark nets and a portion of drumline.

Most of the shark nets deployed by the KZNSB are 214 m long and 6 m deep and are secured at each end by two 35 kg anchors; all have a stretched mesh of 51 cm. The nets are laid in two parallel rows approximately 400m offshore and in water depths of 10-14 m.

The KZNSB boat crews service the nets and drumlines, every Monday through Friday, weather permitting. Four of the 15 ski boats operate from harbours, with three boats based at Durban harbour and the forth at Richards Bay.

All the other craft have to launch through the often heavy surf to reach the nets.

How do nets and drumlines work?

Shark nets do not form a complete barrier and sharks can swim over, under or around the ends of the nets. Neither, of course, do drumlines form a physical barrier. Both types of equipment function by reducing shark numbers in the vicinity of protected beaches, thereby lowering the probability of encounters between sharks and people at those beaches.

The nets may have a limited barrier effect as well, but the fact that about one-third of the catch is caught on the shoreward side of the nets is evidence that such an effect is only partial.

Drumlines are a recent introduction on the KwaZulu-Natal coast but their successful use in Queensland, Australia, indicates that the fishing effect of the protective equipment is of primary importance.

Are nets and drumlines fail-safe?

It was recognised before shark netting was introduced to the beaches of Sydney, Australia, in 1937 that only a complete enclosure would provide complete protection from shark attacks.

Despite this, the safety record of shark nets off the coasts of New South Wales, Queensland (Australia) and KwaZulu-Natal, together with that of drumlines off Queensland has been very good.

At Durban, from 1943 until the installation of nets in 1952, there were seven fatal attacks. Since the installation of nets there have been no fatalities at Durban and no incidents resulting in serious injury.

At KwaZulu-Natal’s other protected beaches, from 1940 until most of those beaches were first netted in the 1960s, there were 16 fatal attacks and 11 resulting in serious injury.

In the three decades since nets were installed there have been no fatal attacks at those beaches and only four resulting in serious injury.

Two of these occurred at Amanzimtoti, in 1974 and 1975, the third at Ballito in 1980 and the most recent at Umtentweni in 1999.



Source: Kwa-Zulu Natal Sharks Board – www.shark.co.za

Laurie Smith

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