The only institute of its kind in the world, The KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board has been successfully protecting the region’s bathing beaches from shark attacks for more than 40 years. Their research into sharks and bather protection, with the emphasis on affecting the environment as little as possible, is respected all over the world.
The Sharks Board headquarters are located in Umhlanga, and this is a great venue for a day’s outing. During the tour, visitors are treated to an audio-visual presentation and shark dissection– a routine procedure from which very important data is collected for research. Their Durban-based motor cruisers also give guests the opportunity to observe the maintenance and operations of the shark nets off Durban’s Golden Mile first hand. During this trip you can enjoy opportunistic sightings of dolphins, whales and seabirds that may be in the area.
While their focus is ensuring safe waters for bathers, the main concern of the Sharks Board is to ensure there is very little impact on the marine environment with their equipment. The Sharks Board embarked on a net reduction programme a few years ago, which reduced the total netted area from 44km to 23km, without compromising bathers’ safety at popular beaches.
Most of the Shark Nets in our waters are 214m wide and 6 m deep and consist of a stretched mesh of 51cm. Each end is secured by 235kg anchors. These nets are laid in 2 parallel rows about 400m offshore and in water depths of 10-14m.
A drumline is a large anchored float from which a single baited hook is suspended. Most protected beaches consist of either 2 nets or 1 net and 4 drumlines. Being the largest coastal city and holiday resort in South Africa, Durban has 17 nets, which cover all the popular swimming beaches between the mouth of the Umgeni River and the harbor entrance.
Every animal that is caught in the Shark Nets or drumlins are identified, sexed, measured and recorded by one of 3 biologists. Any sharks that are still alive are tagged, and injected with a substance that helps validate age and growth studies. Dead sharks that are not badly decomposed are brought into the Sharks Board to be weighed, measured and dissected for biological data.
The Sharks Board is an active member of the South African National Tagging Programme. Since 1984, with 4 689 registered members, over 219 000 fish of 350 species have been tagged and released by this organization.
In an effort to bring science to visitors in an informal setting, the Sharks Board has made shark dissection part of the whole learning experience. These sharks are those that are found dead in the Nets or Drumlines and are stored in deep freezers to ensure that they do not deteriorate, causing valuable information to be lost.
For many visitors attending these shows, this will be their first and probably only encounter with these sea creatures, where they have the opportunity to touch their skin, see their internal structure and learn about the world of sharks.
Dissection shows run every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 09h00 and 14h00. For bookings, please contact: 031 566 0435.
The boat trip out to check the nets leaves Wilson’s Wharf at 06h30. The skipper keeps the passengers fully informed as to the goings on and will alert them to the presence of any other marine life.
This is a 2 hour trip and bookings are essential on 082 403 9206.