"There is a custom within the surfing world that when a member of the surf community dies all his friends throw him, or her, a “paddle out.” A paddle out is sort of like a surfers version of a funeral. Everyone paddles out beyond the persons favorite local surf break and arranges himself or herself in a circle. Many times leis or flowers are tossed into the middle of the circle. Then each person in the circle says something about the person who has died and a few prayers are said and everone paddles in and heads to the party, which is sort of a surfer’s version of a wake. In cases where the deceased has been cremated it is the custom to spread the ashes in the circle as the prayers are said."
“Paddle Out” in Scottburgh in tribute for sharks and other animals killed by “shark nets” along the KZN coast
PRESS RELEASE 2 May 2012
What is this event about?
For the first time, many of the dive operators whose clients enjoy communing with the marine life that the Aliwal Shoal Marine Protected Area (ASMPA) serves to protect, are coming together to seek a new direction in the beach protection policies executed by the KwaZulu Natal Sharks Board and the Umdoni Municipality based in Scottburgh.
To honour the sharks and other creatures that have died over the years in the nets installed along the KwaZulu Natal coast, on Sunday 6 May these dive operators and other concerned parties (collectively “the participants”) will take part in a “paddle out”, the traditional Hawaiian tribute by the surfing community to a surfer who has passed away. Starting at 7am at the Scottburgh net, flowers and garlands will be cast into the sea from a circle of dive boats. Participants will be invited to share their thoughts about the damage to marine life that the presence of the nets causes. They will also share their hopes for a future in which nets will no longer be necessary, and in which events such as the mass netting of 14 Tiger Sharks in Scottburgh on 18April (of which 5 did not survive) do not reoccur.
The participants aim to bring about a new dialogue with the Sharks Board and the Umdoni Municipality. Their hope is that such a dialogue may lead to a fresh and innovative approach to the protection of bathers on beaches in and around Scottburgh, and to establish a broad group of informed stakeholders who can lend their extensive expertise on marine life to this cause.
Additionally, the participants hope that this paddle out will encourage members of the public to inform themselves about the extent of this problem, and to become actively involved not only in the debate, but also in finding a solution that, so far as possible, causes no harm to humans or to the marine animals of Aliwal Shoal.
In short, this “paddle out” is not about anger or blame. It is not about creating a new movement or organization. It is simply an opportunity for a group of people with a shared concern for potentially irreversible damage to an area of huge importance to South Africa’s biodiversity and tourism, to express that concern in a location of particular significance in the context of the conflicting priorities of the welfare of humans and marine animals. A circle of boats surrounding a floral tribute will, it is hoped, provide a visual metaphor of the important question: “Is there not a better way?”
Since the 1950s, Durban and other holiday resorts in KZN have deployed nets in an attempt to protect bathers and surfers from the threat of sharks. Today, these nets are maintained and inspected by the Sharks Board.
Each year, several hundred sharks are caught in these nets. Although the nets are inspected by the Sharks Board daily from Monday to Friday, only a small fraction of the sharks caught, around 13%, are successfully freed.
But the damage caused by the nets is far greater than this. Apart from the 20 species of shark that are caught in them, hundreds of dolphins, whales, turtles, rays and even seas birds are also snared. Whilst the survival rates for some of these animals are better than for sharks, tragically almost all the dolphins that are caught do not live long enough to be released.
The nets, which are within the Aliwal Shoal Marine Protected Area, are of particular concern to conservationists, considering the abundance of marine animals that make their home there, and the incongruity of placing what is effectively a huge fishing device within it.
The participants’ concerns have long been held, and a paddle out has been chosen as a suitably poignant and non-confrontational expression of their sadness at the deaths of the 5 Tiger Sharks on 18 April and at a status quo which appears to accept the death of so many animals in ASMPA and further afield as an unavoidable price to be paid for safe beaches in the area.
The needless loss of any marine life is a cause for great sadness, and especially to those whose passions and livelihoods are so intertwined with the ocean. The stated vision of the Umdoni Municipality is to be “the jewel of the South Coast by 2020” and one of the Municipality’s core principles is to achieve this in an “environmentally friendly environment”. The participants look forward to the realization of this vision.
If you would like to participate or want more information, contact:
Mobile +2773 036 5829 | Office +2731 303 8605 | Fax: +2786 503 8349
Postnet Suite 215 | Private Bag X10 | Musgrave Road | 4062
7C Nimmo Road | Morningside | 4001
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