A paddle-out for marine life which began on KwaZulu-Natal’s south coast two-years ago has spread to other parts of the world.
The event began in Scottburgh in May 2012 after 14 sharks were caught in shark nets and died. The sharks were thought to have been attracted by the carcass of a whale, which became entangled in the nets and died.
A paddle-out, which is an old Hawaiian tradition to pay respect to the dead, was later held.
A similar event took place last year, prompting shark, ocean conservationists, and divers in other parts of the world to get involved.
Next Sunday, the event will take place in Ponta do Ouro in Mozambique, Australia, and the Seychelles, said organiser Amanda Barrat.
Simultaneously, a paddle-out will happen in Umkomaas, Scottburgh, Shelley Beach, and Durban in KwaZulu-Natal; Port Alfred, Port St Johns, and Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape; and Mossel Bay, Knysna, Cape Town, and Hermanus in the Western Cape.
“Our message is a collective stance for the better management of shark nets and improved legislation for the protection of sharks,” Barrat said in a statement.
“We want to change the way that people think about sharks and challenge the discourses around sharks. Fundamental to our movement is our connection with the ocean — this is why we paddle-out.”
In the 2012 event, over 100 people got into dive boats, jet skis, and surfboards to paddle-out.
At the time, diver Cormac McCreesh said the shark nets were located in the Aliwal Shoal marine protected area.
The shoal is a large rocky reef that lies about seven kilometres off-shore between Umkomaas and Scottburgh. It is the remains of an ancient sand dune and is occupied by a variety of fish species and corals.
The reef is also a renowned diving site and home to schools of dolphins, pods of whales, turtles, rays, mantas, and ragged tooth sharks — which congregate there between August and November to mate.
According to Aliwal Shoal Tourism, the name of the reef came about after the near-sinking of a vessel called “Aliwal” in 1849, which was captained by James Anderson.
There are two wrecks near the reef that are prime sites for divers — the Norwegian bulk carrier “Produce” which sank in 1974 and the Nebo which sank in 1884.