The great white shark is a protected species in South Africa and as far as rumour goes, the line should be cut at a safe distance from the fish as soon as the angler knows that he/she has hooked a great white shark. In the South African Marine Living Resources Act, 1998 (Act no. 18 of 1998) it is stated as follows: “The holder of a recreational fishing permit shall not engage in fishing for, be in posession of, or sell any fish listed in the Prohibited Species List of Annexure 7” – familiarize yourself with this act: http://www.shark.co.za/Uploads/Linefish_regs_2005.pdf

It is not mentioned in detail in this act of what to do once a great white has been hooked accidentally; it is only mentioned that such a fish should be kept and handed over to a fisheries official if “landed and/or killed accidentally”. It is not clear whether a live fish should be kept as well as a dead one? In the link below, a man was prosecuted for deliberately targeting and landing a great white shark. This was against the law and the person who breached the Act got what he deserved. However, in the second paragraph of this publication, the writer (Meaghen McCord) explained that the “fisheries law states that incidentally captured animals must be released immediately.  To those of us with limited knowledge of South African fishing law, this means white sharks cannot be landed and anglers must cut their line if they accidentally catch this easily recognizable animal.” I believe that these sentences carry incorrect information. There is NO fine print stating that a great white shark should be released “immediately”, neither is there any law describing that “sharks cannot be landed and anglers must cut their line…”. See link below:

Great white shark 2

Therefore, it is still unclear and almost seems left over to good practices in angling to decide when it is ‘safe’ to release an accidentally hooked great white shark. In good angling practice, this means that the fish should be brought in as quickly as possible and the line should be cut close to the hook, while the fish is kept in the water, before it is released. It only makes sense to do it in this manner, since a great white trailing 50 m of nylon around in the ocean is a hazard and more likely to die than a fish released in the manner described above. If you are confident that one of the knots closest to the hook will snap first when tightening up the drag, then I suppose that is worth a try once the accidentally hooked great white shark has been identified in the deeper water while fighting the hooked fish.

This leaves a great ethical question mark on the behaviour of the anglers in this recently published video clip. I believe they did the wrong thing by dragging the shark onto the sand; however, unless they were targeting great whites specifically, their actions captured on film here will be hard to challenge in court – unless the Act’s intention is that ANY landed great white, dead or alive, should be handed over to a fisheries official? Not clear and revision is required here boys…

Leonard Flemming

Leonard Flemming

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