In August 2003, Chris Fallow (Apex Predators) in False Bay informed Michael Scholl that one of his clients was able to purchase a Great White Shark tooth in a shop in Hermanus...

Our team then went to investigate the shop over the next couple of months, and with the proof of a hidden camera, we managed to buy two White Shark teeth without any problems.

Tom Peschak, who is writting a book about the Marine Ecosystems of Southern Africa, introduced us to Craig Spencer (Overstrand Nature Conservation), and a meeting with Neptune, the special investigation unit of Marine and Coastal Management, was held to discuss further action.

On the 15th of October 2003, the M.A.R.I.N.E.S. (Management Action for Resources of Inshore and Nearshore Environments), a joint action of the Overstrand Nature Conservation and Marine and Coastal Management (MCM), entered the Hermanus shop with a search warrant issued following our statement that the shop was indeed selling White Shark teeth.

Unfortunately, the problem is not limited to local shops... More dramatically, White Shark teeth and jaws are most likely to be smuggled towards the international market as these products will sell for hundreds or thousands of US dollars outside of South Africa.
After discussion with various sources, including Chris Fallows, Craig Spencer (Overstrand Nature Conservation) and from our own sources and experiences, we know that White Sharks are indeed targetted illegaly in South Africa, and at least around Dyer Island and False Bay. Unfortunately, the authorities are already understaffed and too busy dealing with the huge Abalone poaching situation in the Cape, that it is very difficult to patrol remote areas to catch White Shark fishing on the spot. The fact remains though that White Shark teeth were sold in the Hermanus shop at a very low price under 200 ZAR (about 25 US$), indicating that the supply of these teeth was not a problem.

From August, at the start of our investigation, to October 2003, at the time of the bust, we noted that the available stock was changing on a regular basis, indicating sadly that the demand for these products is there.

The Great White Sharks teeth sold in the Hermanus shop (left) were on open display. The shop was also selling loose teeth under the counter. At the time of the bust, the shop had seven White Shark teeth on necklaces on display (below).
It is unfortunate that tourists find Shark, especially Great White Shark, teeth so appealing... Buying a "fresh" shark tooth is never good! All Shark species are under incredible fishing pressure with which their populations cannot cope. Shark fishing is never sustainable! Instead of buying a "fresh" Shark tooth, buy the freely available fossilized Shark teeth available on the open market. There are also very real looking artificial Shark teeth on the market for those who wish to buy a White Shark looking tooth for example.
South Africa was the first country in the world to protect the Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias) in April 1991. It is a shame that over a decade later, White Sharks are still caught either by the Natal Sharks Board to protect the beaches along the Natal coastline, through accidental by-catch in comercial fishing, killed by some novice (or just plain stupid) spearfishermen, and by poachers.

The illegal fishing of Great White Sharks must stop! Actually the fishing of Sharks should be stoped (or at least managed and regulated)!

We know of at least two companies, one in Struisbaai and the other in False Bay, who offer commercial deep-sea fishing trips and who advertise White Shark fishing as a potential possibility. The article published in the Cape Times (see below) on the 16th of October 2003, hopefully will inform the general public about the facts and problems, and hopefully this bust will represent a beginning of tracking down the culprits!

We would like to thank Tom Peschak, Craig Spencer, Chris Fallows, the M.A.R.I.N.E.S. (Management Action for Resources of Inshore and Nearshore Environments) and Neptune (Marine and Coastal Management) for their dedication and efforts!

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