Fish Hoek Beach- Don’t Blame The Sharks!

Fish Hoek Bay on Christmas Day 2010

I am normally upbeat about Fish Hoek, its a nice place to live, and I chose it over a number of other places in the world. Sometimes though a minority of it’s citizens can send me over the edge and make me question the thought processes of my fellow residents.

There is a lot of debate on the Cape Point Peninsula, and Fish Hoek in particular about the use of shark nets to make the beach safer to use. The pros and cons of this enterprise are firmly dividing the town- its a question of cost, versus effectiveness: marine conservation and increased tourism. I don’t want to get into that one here, however my ire is related to the pro camp, who are convinced that negative publicity around the shark attacks is keeping people away from Fish Hoek beach and that the erection of the nets will help to bring people back to the once popular spot.

I personally do not want to shout those people down, they are mainly local business owners who see the revenue generated by tourists as the potential saviour of the town. This may be the case, I certainly have no statistics to form any kind of argument for or against this line of thinking.

Again, this is not the reason for my anger and despair!

On Saturday morning we had a family trip to the beach: its a regular been a regular thing this summer to walk down to the beach, calling at the library on the way. My three year old daughter causes havoc and mayhem, runs herself into the ground and then we get to have a quiet Saturday afternoon as she sleeps it off.

We mainly spend our time in the corner of Jaager’s Walk, or if the tide is in we sit on the steps infront of the cafe. The beach seems clean and it seems to be a family area. On Saturday we left by walking along the sand, exiting by the trek net boats.

Already, whilst walking along the shore line we had had to negotiate our way around a floating lump of faeces of undetermined species. Whether this had come from a straining (no pun intended) sewerage system or was the result of some animal (I’m no scatologist but it  looked like a two legged animal had done it) using the sea as a toilet I cannot say, but really…

That wasn’t the end of it though. As we got to the ramp I narrowly averted my daughter from stepping in a supersized pile of dog poo (I’m trying to keep the literature clean here, if not the subject matter).  This I managed to bury in the sand with my daughter’s plastic spade. Just as we were bemoaning that we hit the top of the ramp to be met by a mine field of squishy problems. It was everywhere!

And that is one of the main entry points to the beach, a lot of people park that side. That is their first impression of our lovely beach, a stinking pile of poo that the locals don’t even care about.

And that is my point. The sharks are there, and there is little we can do about that than manage the situation, but surely it is not too much to ask that the locals (for it is mainly locals who walk their dogs on Fish Hoek beach) take better care of this wonderful asset that we have.

Now I know that all dog owners pick up after their dogs- like no motorist ever speeds down Kommetjie Road, but the time has come to stop being cowards about bringing to task those in our town who do not care about its natural resources. If you see someone ignoring the fact that their dog has just left a mark on the beach, tell them it is unacceptable; if they get funny about it, ignore you or are rude- so what, at least you did your bit. Bad things happen because good people do nothing is how the saying goes, and not only that- it is my personal observation that good people eventually copy what bad people do, if they think they can get away with it.

There is a core of people out there who genuinely don’t care about the world, or anyone else in it. You can talk to them until you are blue in the face, they just don’t see anything wrong in what they do, but the vast majority of offenders are just lazy, and hoping not to have to bend their backs- they just can’t be bothered. If they were brought to task in a none aggressive way then they will usually just do what they are asked, again, because they can’t be bothered with the confrontation.

Why should we allow this minority of idiots ruin the lives (and livelihoods) of the rest of us. We should worry about any negative publicity about our town, but it is a waste of time and money to put in shark nets in an attempt to pull back the punters, if they then arrive and are greeted by a dog toilet. It may be much easier, cheaper and effective to put in place a beach patrol- a neighbourhood watch for the beach. This could be an extension of the shark spotters, and include at least one police official, especially at busy times. Anyone transgressing bylaws should be first politely asked to comply (for the benefit of other beach users), if they are abusive or uncooperative then the law enforcement officer should escort them from the beach and administer any necessary penalties. Neighbourhood watch seems to be very effective in urban areas, why not the beach?

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