DSL Vessels are catching Cites-protected species and are fishing illegally in MPAs

DSL Vessels are catching Cites-protected species and are fishing illegally in MPAs

The DSL fishery indiscriminately targets areas that are known to be nursery areas for protected species such as Smooth Hammerheads. These areas are: the Eastern side of the De Hoop boundary, Robberg and Mossel Bay.

The fishery also fishes in and adjacent to areas that are known high density areas for Great White sharks, such as Robberg, De Hoop, Duiwenhoks and Mossel Bay.

Despite the National Plan of Action for Sharks stating that areas for protected species and areas of high vulnerability such as nursery areas, need special protection, these guidelines are being ignored.

The University of Miami conducted research on the edge of South Africa’s flagship MPA De Hoop in 2019 and 2020.

It was found that by using Baited Remote Underwater Video (BRUV) data, DSL vessels are setting their gear in areas where this is a 60% overlap in terms of numbers of Smooth Hammerheads and Smoothhound sharks.

Download the Preliminary BRUV Results

In other words, in almost every second deployment of a BRUV either a Smooth Hammerhead shark or a Smoothhound shark was reported.

Thus, the chances the DSL is not catching Hammerheads when catching Smoothhounds is highly unlikely.

There is photographic evidence of these vessels with a Hammerhead aboard their boat awaiting processing. No effort was made to release the Hammerhead which was still alive.

Hammerhead and other shark species seen in a South Africa fishing boat.

This vessel was suspiciously never checked when she docked in Mossel Bay after this catch despite DEFF officials being made aware of the protected species on board.

Permit conditions state that all non-targeted and protected species need to:

  1. Be handled with utmost care and whenever possible be released alive
  2. If any non-targeted and protected species are caught and killed, the whole carcass needs to be reported to the Inspector on off-load.

Both the fishery and DEFF claim zero catch of Hammerhead sharks. Using photographic evidence and eyewitness reports none of the above is being done and it is not possible that zero Smooth Hammerhead sharks were caught as per assessment data.

So what is happening to all these dead CITES-protected Hammerheads? Are they landing on your Australian Fish and Chips plate too?

Eyewitnesses have seen what they described as hundreds of Hammerhead sharks in the hold of just one of these vessels.

There are eyewitness reports of bins of Smooth Hammerheads being offloaded in Mossel Bay.

  • In 1991, South Africa was the first country in the world protecting white sharks under the auspices of a precautionary principle. Nevertheless, there have been at least 5 white sharks confirmed, known to The Department of Agriculture, Forest & Fisheries (DAFF), to have been caught by the DSL (but likely more).
  • In 2017 we are aware that DAFF ran an experiment to assess the probability of what bycatch a demersal shark longline vessel could catch. The trial was done in Algoa Bay. DAFF officials told us that only a few shark longlines were dropped and already a total 3 white sharks were caught. This was in one day only.
  • In addition, in June 2018 there was one reported incident of a white shark caught by one of the Demersal Shark Longline vessels.
  • Another Great White shark was reported in March 2019.
  • On an email, a DAFF official wrote that she believed the number of caught white sharks is actually higher as likely not reported by this fishery.