First great white shark conviction ‘a victory’
South Africa’s first conviction in a case involving a great white shark should serve as a lesson to those who ill-treat protected species, the department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries has said.
Leon Bekker was sentenced in the Mossel Bay Magistrates’ Court last week after he had caught, landed and disturbed a great white shark, Carcharodon carcharias – a protected species – on March 11 2011 in the Mossel Bay area.
He was sentenced to a fine of R120 000 or 12 months imprisonment on Friday. His sentence was suspended for 5 years.
“We are certain that the sentence will serve as a deterrent to anyone who contemplate catching or disturbing this or any other protected species and we will continue to rely on the public and other law-enforcement agencies to protect our marine resources and to arrest and prosecute anyone involved in the irresponsible crimes,” said Lionel Adendorf, spokesperson for the department.
“What makes this case so remarkable, is the fact that this is the first great white shark case and conviction in any South African court as South Africa is also the first country to impose legislation in protecting great white sharks,” Adendorf said.
He thanked the community of Mossel Bay which, after witnessing the incident, notified authorities of what Bekker had done.
He said he regarded the case as a victory despite the fact that Bekker would not be serving any prison time.
“It’s a victory because this is the first time a case like this goes to court, and it is also a victory because of the guilty verdict,” he said.
He said the sentence meant Bekker would refrain from similar actions at least for the next five years or else he would have to go to jail or pay the R120 000.
Enrico Gennari, director of Oceans Research, based in Mossel Bay, said the scarcity of great white sharks made Bekker’s actions even more horrendous.
“There are less than 2 000 white sharks out there in the seas. This is why white sharks are a protected species in this country and internationally.”