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Development Studies

Shark diversity and varied marine environments along the coast of Southern Africa provide unparalleled opportunities for marine ecotourism. Although developed to a degree in KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape, enormous opportunities still remain for further development of non-exploitative use of shark resources, particularly through diving. The relatively short coastline between tropical waters in the north and temperate conditions in the Cape provides a wide variety of marine faunal experiences. These resources all have great potential for business opportunities, particularly in the economically depressed Eastern Cape. Additional benefits of a properly run system would be to educate people about the value of these marine resources as ecologically critical, yet threatened components of marine ecosystems.

Some of the projects currently being conducted within the Department of Development Studies in conjunction with Bayworld are:

Raggedtooth Shark (Carcharias taurus)

With a mouthful of teeth only a mother could love, the raggedtooth shark (Carcharias taurus), or raggie as it is affectionately known, is perhaps one of the most readily identifiable and well-known species of sharks along the South African coast. What is less well known is that South Africa, is possibly the last place left in the world where there remains a healthy and stable population.

This species is one of the major draw cards for divers to many of South Africa’s premier shark diving destinations. Research into the population dynamics of this species in South Africa is crucial to ensure that the South African population does not decline to the extent that are evident elsewhere in the world.

Tagging a Raggedtooth Shark 
Photo by Matt Dicken

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Inserting an Internal Tag
Photo by Matt Dicken

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Photos by Mark Addison

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Photo by John Cooper

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White Shark Scavenging on a Whale Carcass

Scavenging of whale carcasses is thought to be an important part of the diet of white sharks and other large shark species, such as the tiger shark and possibly the Zambezi shark. Very little information exists on the scavenging behaviour of sharks on whale carcasses due to the rarity of observing such an event in both time and space.

Rather than burying a carcass that has washed ashore, it has show to be far more beneficial to tow it out to sea and collect information on the species and sizes of sharks that are attracted to it to feed. This type of research has the potential to develop these events into a significant tourist attraction for both boat based viewers and divers. Information gained from these events provides important information for bather protection to the potential dangers of leaving the carcass in shallow water close to popular bathing beaches, as is often the case at the moment.

Photos by Matt Dicken

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Tiger Sharks (Galeocerdo Cuvier)

The tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) with its distinctive stripes is perhaps one of the most readily identifiable and well-known species of shark. It is also regarded as one of the most dangerous. More confirmed attacks on divers, swimmers and boats have been attributed to this species than all other sharks, except perhaps the white shark.

Some dive charter operators have initiated using baits and chum to attract tiger sharks, as per the modus operandi for great white sharks in the Western Cape. Research, using cutting edge ultra sonic and satellite tag technology is providing critical information on the movement patterns of tiger sharks in response to chumming. This is vital to evaluate the threat these sharks pose to other marine user groups.

Through increasing diver awareness of tiger shark habits and by allowing knowledgeable interaction with them it is anticipated that diver attitudes towards these potentially dangerous sharks will change from one of fear to one of respect and wonder.

Photos by John Cooper

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Baiting Examples

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Tagging Underwater

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Boat Tracking

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Deploying Listening Station

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