Shark & Dolphin presence cancels Durban Night Surfing
Mr Price Pro Night Surfing
ASP Africa Pro Surf Tour (PST) Specialty event
North Beach, Durban
Friday – Sunday, July 5 - 7, 2002
Night surfing cancelled due to sardine run
The huge shoals of sardines in the shallow water off the beaches of Durban, and the unprecedented size of the pods of dolphins and packs of sharks that are feeding on them, have forced the cancellation of the Mr Price Pro Night Surfing event.
Scheduled for Friday to Sunday nights, 5 – 7 July, the R40 000 ASP Africa rated specialty event was to have been staged under floodlights on North Beach and has attracted 64 men and 16 women surfers from all over South Africa, along with a handful of international competitors.
“We’re disappointed that the Mr Price Pro Night Surfing has had to be called off but fully understand the reasons that the shark nets can’t be replaced at this time,” said ASP Africa director Gavin Horn after meeting with the sponsors and representatives from the Natal Sharks Board (NSB) and Durban’s Recreation and Marine Safety departments this morning.
“However, without the nets in place we can’t risk the safety of our members and we’ll have to monitor the situation on a day by day basis with regard to the R1.2 million Mr Price Pro which is due to start on Monday afternoon,” he added.
The NSB is ready to lay a couple of nets off the beaches the moment the fish disappear but would then have to monitor the nets for 24 hours before replacing a full set of nets.
“We can drop some nets as soon as the sardines and the dolphins that are feeding on them move to deeper water,” said Mike Anderson-Reade, spokesman for the NSB. “We would monitor the nets the next morning to see if anything was caught and if they are clear, we would replace all the nets in the area.”
Reports coming in from the NSB boats monitoring the unique ecological phenomenon during the meeting stated that the sardine ‘activity’ extended from inside the breaking waves and up to 2.5 kilometres offshore with packs of copper sharks ‘smashing into the sardines on the surface’. Thousands of common dolphin could be seen everywhere but not many bottlenose dolphin.
Len Jones, a Springbok spear fisherman who was on the boat said “I saw the biggest shark I’ve ever seen - it was about four metres in length and just off the old Whaling Station on the Bluff. Right now the surface of the sea is just a whirlpool of fish and sharks, most of them 2.5 metre bronze whalers – I’ve never seen so many sharks.”
The biggest problem in laying the nets is the dolphins. Being mammals they need to surface in order to breathe and if they get caught in the shark nets they can drown. With the numbers of dolphins in the area, and pods numbering between 10 and 15,000 have been reported, justifiably the NSB is unwilling to take a chance on the ecological implications of any dolphins dieing after swimming into a net that they have laid.
The City of Durban is similarly sensitive to the adverse publicity a that a shark attack of any form would have on tourist’s perceptions of a city promoted as South Africa’s playground. According to the NSB the copper sharks (also known as bronze whalers) are not life threatening, but there are also many Great Whites, Ragged Tooth and Zambezi sharks chasing the fish and their attacks could be fatal.
The city would therefore require the event organisers to provide an insurance policy of R100 million indemnifying the city and NSB if they decide to go ahead with the event without nets being in place.
All the parties to the decision to cancel the Night Surfing event - the NSB, ASP Africa and the City’s Recreation and Marine Safety departments – have undertaken to cooperate in monitoring the situation for the upcoming Mr Price Pro, with the city departments willing to make additional beaches available so the event can take place at multiple venues if it is not possible to start on schedule on Monday.
The Mr Price Pro is the anchor event of the 10-day Vodacom Beach Africa festival, which incorporates many water, and beach based events, along with retail and entertainment activities, that attract approximately a million spectators to the Durban beachfront every July.
Previous report #1 World champion in Durban’s surfing extravaganza
Previous report #2 Night Surfing adds new dimension to Mr Price Pro
Previous report #3 Sardines & Sharks threaten Durban Night Surfing event
Issued on behalf of:
Mr Price Group
Contact: Clynton Lund
Tel: +27 (0) 83 653 8896
Life’s a Beach Communications
Contact: Paul Botha
Mobile: +27 (0) 82 423 1964
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