I guess that it was inevitable that the negative publicity surrounding a recent shark attack would lead to shark nets at Fish Hoek beach.
Tourism is in a general slump in the area which is inevitably having a knock effect for the rest of the economy. Certainly the portrayal of Fish Hoek beach as being a place that you will get eaten by a great white shark will not have helped in bringing people to the area if they are looking for a beach holiday, however, following the latest attack my own evidence was that there was a massive influx of people ‘shark spotting’.
And at the end of the day it seems that this is more about creating the right image for Fish Hoek than about finding any practical solution to the problem. For one, from what I understand of the proposal for shark nets at Fish Hoek beach they are intended to cover only a small area of the beach (the proposal I read said that they would protect an area the size of two football pitches). Recent attacks have been occurring in areas that would surely be outside the netted area. If you erect shark nets at Fish Hoek beach I will guarantee that someone arrogant fool will want to swim outside them (the last attack occurred even though there was a general warning of increased shark activity) . Should they then be attacked the problem would be doubled because not only would we have the negative publicity of the attack, but also that the nets are totally ineffective.
Will Shark Nets at Fish Hoek Beach Endanger Marine Life?
The second problem is that shark nets at Fish Hoek beach will put a lot of other marine wildlife in danger. Official reports are trying to promote that any shark nets at Fish Hoek beach will be of a type that stops sharks from entering the area but is safe for all other types of marine creature.
I’m sorry, but I can’t buy into that. There has to be the potential for things getting entangled in the nets- in fact if you think about this, shark nets at Fish Hoek beach could actually attract sharks! A big statement, but think about this logically.
My mother’s family is from a small fishing village on the east coast of England. Every summer they had a very short salmon season. They used to lay out long lines of nets in the bay to catch salmon as they migrated up the coast. A large problem was that the netted fish attracted seals, who saw it as an easy meal. Exactly the same thing will happen with any shark nets at Fish Hoek beach. Fish will get caught in the nets, attracting seals. Following the seals will be the sharks, not to mention that great whites are also carrion feeders.
Presumably the nets will not be in the water when the whales are here, but we also have large marine mammals at other times, though it is rare for them to come in close to the shore.
Our marine ecosystems are already under immense pressure, it is impossible for us to know what negative impact placing shark nets at Fish Hoek beach could have on them. Something as mundane as a tiny jelly fish not washing up on the beach could have far reaching effects.
Shark Nets at Fish Hoek Beach could save the town
Of course, the other side of the coin is that the businesses of Fish Hoek need a shot in the arm, and the perception of safety for bathers could provide just that. In this case, do we need to put up with any negative environmental factors and see the erection of shark nets at Fish Hoek beach as a great way to revive the fortunes of the town?
It could do, and it could also lead to further investment in Fish Hoek, because I don’t want to be negative about a town that I love living in however, we need a lot more than just shark nets at Fish Hoek beach to make this an attractive destination for tourists. I have travelled the world and I have never seen a beach this popular with such little infrastructure. Not that I am advocating the erection of arcades and every fast food joint imaginable, but surely there is scope in the summer for a few vendors.
There has been a lot of positive work done recently to upgrade the beach, especially on the south side. The restoration of Jaager’s Walk and the upgrade of the toilet facilities is first class, maybe the logical step is to have shark nets at Fish Hoek beach. Who am I to say?
Just a final thought though. News reports on the shark nets at Fish Hoek beach are mentioning heavily that there have been two attacks since 2006, two of them fatal. Off the top of my head I can think of four fatalities on the railway between Fish Hoek and Muizenburg in the same time, and five fatalities on Kommetjie Road (just the Fish Hoek side) in the last three years (a billboard ad at the bottom of the Silvermine reserve a few years ago had the stat on it that more people die from tipping chairs backwards than from shark attacks.) Which only goes to show that this is more about media image than practical reality.
So I think it is time to change the poll on the home page:
Shark Nets at Fish Hoek Beach- Yes or No?
Have your say as to wether to have shark nets at Fish Hoek beach or not Poll on the right