For the first time that a man has been punished for abusing a wild marine creature, a Great White Shark no less. Leon Bekker of South Africa pleaded guilty for harassing a shark, which ultimately led to its death, last year in Mossel Bay and has been sentenced to a fine of over $13,000 dollars.
According to the organization Oceans Society, last year in Mossel Bay, Leon Bekker of George in the Western Cape, hooked a great white shark in presence of other people. They wrote:
In the case of Leon Bekker, the photos captured show that (a) he hooked and landed the shark using a gaff under the jaws, (b) once on the rocks, where it was clearly identifiable as a white shark, he spent upwards of 5 minutes pulling the shark higher onto the rocks, (c) he rested on the shark with his own weight, his partner pulled the shark by its gills, and the gaff in the chin was used to leverage the shark higher onto the rocks, (d) he then spent a number of minutes posing with the shark whilst photographs were taken, and (e) overall he had the shark out of the water for upwards of 15 minutes without ventilation and made no effort to release it. The shark was only released when I arrived on the scene and instigated its release. As such, I believe that in terms of the following regulation:
“No person shall, except on the authority of a permit— (a) engage in fishing, collecting, killing, attempting to kill, disturbing, harassing or attracting using bait or any other means, keeping or controlling of, or be in possession of, any great white shark: Provided that if caught or killed unintentionally, such shark shall be kept in the whole state, and shall be handed to a fishery control officer as soon as possible”
Some onlookers though were quick to call local marine biologist and shark conservationist Ryan Johnson about the tragic scene. He quickly arrived and advised Bekker to return the animal to the water as it could die anytime. He also informed him that he was breaking the law.
Johnson believes that the shark died because of its injury and because it was too long out of water.
According to Discovery news, Bekker pleaded guilty to his contravention of various sections of the Marine Living Resources Act No 18 of 1988.
He was charged with “fishing for, collecting, attempting to kill, disturbing, harassing, chumming or attracting using bait or other means, keeping controlling or being in possession of a white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) or part thereof, without a permit.”
Johnson told the court that there were only about 3,500 great white sharks left in the marine world and taking even one of them out of the ocean could disrupt the whole community. It is one of the reasons why Great white sharks have been protected in South African waters since 1991.
The state of California is also planning to add this marine animal into its list of endangered species. Though it is very difficult to know their exact population, it is believed there are around 220 in the state.
Shark species around the world are in a difficult situation because of constant human interference. Pollution, climate change, excessive fishing has put many sharks in extreme danger and because their rate of reproduction is very slow, it makes their future all the more vulnerable.
Bekker has been sentenced to a fine of 120,000 South African rands ($13,200) or a year in jail. His case will surely warn others to be more cautious before intentionally harming marine life.