The Government responds

The Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Ms Barbara Creecy, has appointed an Expert Panel on Sharks to review the management and conservation of the species by South Africa.

The appointment of the Panel is in response to public concern about shark populations along the coast, and the change in the distribution of Great White Sharks and the resultant increase in conflict between fishers and tourism operators.

The nine-member Panel comprising of national and international experts will review South Africa’s National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks (NPOA Sharks) over a three-month period to determine whether the Plan is effective and where improvements need to be made. It will recommend actions needed to properly manage and conserve all shark species found along the South African coast, and to guide their long-term sustainable use.

South Africa’s NPOA Sharks was developed in line with the International Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks (IPOA) and implemented in 2013. A local review of the Plan was completed in 2018 and identified a number of areas that require further attention as the country works to improve the management of shark species found in our coastal waters. This review will be guided by the aims of the IPOA.

These include ensuring that shark catches from direct and non-direct fisheries are sustainable, that unutilised incidental shark catches are minimised, and that species-specific catch and landing data, and the monitoring of shark catches, are improved. Minimising waste and discards from shark catches in accordance with the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, which requires the retention of sharks from which fins are removed, and the full use of dead sharks are amongst its aims.

It also requires the assessment of direct threats to shark populations, finding ways to protect critical habitats and implement harvesting strategies that are biologically sustainable and rational for long-term economic use. Particular attention is given to vulnerable or threatened shark stocks.

In terms of the IPOA, countries are required to improve and develop frameworks for establishing and co-ordinating effective consultation involving all stakeholders in research, management and educational initiatives within and between States.