Great white killed for its jaws

21 July 2016 - 09:07 By BOBBY JORDAN

On land Michael Flatley is a dance sensation. But the Irish superstar who toured South Africa in 2004 may have caused untold damage to the oceans by inadvertently promoting a trade in shark jaws, a shark expert claimed yesterday. Flatley, the star of Riverdance, came under fire yesterday at a Cape Town media briefing to mark the release of research findings that suggest the great white shark faces extinction. One of the reasons is a trade in its jaw, according to shark expert Mike Rutzen, who claimed the trade took off after Flatley acquired one during his visit."He got himself the biggest jaw ever caught in South Africa," Rutzen said. "But what we saw in the field is the fishermen heard about it and started taking the big animals to wait for the next Mike Flatley." Rutzen claimed Flatleyacquired the jaw in exchange for a £30,000 "donation" to a fishermen's retirement fund.Flatley could not be reached for comment yesterday.Findings presented suggest that South Africa's great white population, which could be as small as 353, may have dropped below the minimum number needed to survive. The findings are based on the biggest local great white study of its kind, which lasted six years and involved genetic samples, dorsal fin photo analysis, and microchipping. The team collected nearly 5000 photographs of great white dorsal fins, which serve as "unique shark fingerprints".Rutzen and Italian researcher Sara Andreotti toured the South African coast over five years aboard a 44ft catamaran.Rutzen also took aim at the Natal Sharks Board for its sharkunfriendly use of nets and baited hooks in preventing shark attacks. He claimed this also contributed to the Great White decline.Natal Parks Board spokesman Matt Dicken confirmed an average annual mortality of 21 white sharks due to nets and drums on the KwaZulu-Natal coast. He said it was likely this number was insignificant compared to the number killed by fishermen: "Although there are no official catch records it is likely white sharks are incidentally or deliberately targeted and killed in much higher numbers."LEAVE SQUID OFF MENUNext time you eat calamari bear in mind that you could be hastening the extinction of the African penguin.A study in Algoa Bay, home to 54% of the endangered species, has found that they are increasingly reliant on squid."Not only pelagic fish but squid need to be managed to allow population recovery of the penguin," said researchers at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.Squid is important to sustain adult penguins raising the young.Maelle Connan, Greg Hofmeyr and Pierre Pistorius said: " Adults are able to [digest] squid efficiently but the chicks seem not to have the ability." - Dave Chambers

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