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Great White controversy

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Well-Known Member
Apr 21, 2003
Hi All

The poor Great Whites are in the news again in Cape Town. One of the local operators has started chumming in False Bay and has caused a bit of a storm !! This piece below is a portion of an article was in our papers recently. The operator apparently did have a valid licence for the operation.
If you're interested in the Great Whites, it makes interesting reading.



"A Great White Shark tour boat has been chumming just offshore from beaches packed with holidaymakers in False Bay - sparking fears of tragedy or a Jaws-style panic that will drive tourists away.

And the owner of the boat, Theo Ferreira, has a permit that makes it legal - a fact which has shocked Kalk Bay harbourmaster Pat Stacey.

Ferreira, a legendary shark hunter turned gamekeeper, says he is an expert on the huge predators and his activities actually make bathers safer.

But Stacey rejects this and warns that the fearsome sharks are unpredictable.

'The boat was full of tourists and they got their money's worth'
Two Cape Town brothers sailing a Hobie Cat on Saturday were horrified when they saw people on Ferreira's tour boat feeding fish heads to a giant shark near Kalk Bay harbour.

Richard and David Power had set sail from Fish Hoek.

As they rounded the point in the direction of Kalk Bay harbour, they saw people on board a boat throwing overboard the foul-smelling fishy mixture used to attract sharks.

And circling the water near the boat they saw a huge Great White. At times it was just 1km from the beach, they said. "
An interesting twist; is it better to know their there and be thankful that their presence is a reasonable distance from shore away from the 'easy pickings that could be found', or would it be better to not know of their presence and assum they aren't in the area?
I am not a GWS expert of that region nor of SA, but I'd imagine there are a hell of alot more 'big' or 'man-eaters' (as so labled by the uneducated) sharks including and besides the GWS. It seems that when it is presented or whitnessed by, not to slander anyone, the media or someone with a big mouth it becomes just as, if not more important than nuclear fallout in the 60's. Kinda funny to me, what your opinion? Also, has anyone else seen the arial photograph of a beach on the east coast of Africa during the sardine run where sharks bigger than the vans in the picture, and look to be within 200m? I dont know the species of the sharks, but they were huge, anyways.....

Enjoy, Justin
"Can't go spearing today, ice is too thick."
Last edited:
Originally posted by drkebs
Also, has anyone else seen the arial photograph of a beach on the east coast of Africa during the sardine run where sharks bigger than the vans in the picture, and look to be within 200m? I dont know the species of the sharks, but they were huge, anyways.....

Yes, that fake pic got around a bit...;)
While I have never been to False Bay I work with a videographer who has, and who did an hour long doc on the GW's there (for Nat Geo TV). His video shows how uninterested in the local bathing population these sharks are. They tend to congregate (again based on his work and on the research of the shark biologists and behaviorists he worked with) around Seal Island in the middle of the bay. This is where they find their food - why chew on a person when you can have all that fabulous seal fat?

Chumming has always struck me as a silly way to bring in tourist dollars, but clearly it brings in National Geographic, and the Discovery Channel every year to shoot video and pictures of these whites catapulting into the air. False Bay's Whites are truly impressive and HUGE. If you want to see video of these guys doing what they do in False Bay and their massive size check out the link:


I am torn between the scientist in me that says these animals should be studied but not be a tourist attraction, and the side of me that wonders if we are actually promoting the survival of the species by allowing people other than divers to witness these animals in their habitat. I don't know. I'm not sure how we serve the shark's interests if we exploit it, but knowledge is how we protect them. Thoughts?
Aloha Kim!
In reference to your statement about tourism and the sharks, I have an opinion, or rather, an observation. (slightly long winded)

Here in Kailua Kona Hawaii, we have reciently seen a few Tiger Sharks roaming outside and inside the harbor. They have been feeding on the fishing scraps that are dumped (illegally) into the harbor. My wife and I have been beach diving outside the harbor regularly for months in a continuing effort to video and photograph these amazing animals.

Some of the best video footage that I shot was inside the harbor using a pole cam while sitting on the dock where the fish weighing scales are located.

One Sunday afternoon I sat for several hours watching a Tiger Shark enter the small boat harbor and cruise the north side of the harbor channel, eating scraps on the harbor floor, and casually cruise out of the harbor on the south side of the channel. Keep in mind that the harbor channel is only 40 feet wide from bank to bank. I watched this behavior occur every half hour for 3-4 hours. The shark would finish the harbor cruise by turning left under the fish scales and then exit the harbor.

Mid afternoon, a small boat entered the harbor draging a 660Lbs pacific blue marlin by the tail. The marlin was larger than the boat and the anglers could not pull the marlin onboard for fear of sinking their vessel. Directly following the marlin was the shark. But instead of following the marlin to the scales on the south side of the harbor channel, the Tiger Shark followed it's normal routine of cruising the north side of the harbor channel into the boat slip area, and returning on the south side of the channel several minutes later. True to form, the shark turned left and went under the fish scales where the marlin was still floating in the water behind the small boat. Nothing happened. Not even a ripple on the surface of the water. The shark never changed speed or swim pattern.

I was not the only witness to this event, but this did not stop a few fisherman from "hunting" these incredible animals for the next few weeks. A few tigers were hooked in and around the harbor entrance and killed. They were then promptly dumped back into the water, where other sharks would feed on them :head. (I guess some people will never become any more intelligent than their current state of evolution will allow). The hunting did not end the sightings of the sharks, and the harbor division has not done much to inforce the "no dumping" rule.

The part of this story that I find most incredible is that within 200 yards outside of the harbor are 5 mooring balls used daily by charter dive oporators and snorkle cruise boats. This area has 100 people or more swimming there daily. I personally have made over 80 dives there since the first sightings of the sharks. And no one has ever been aproached by these animals. Most people who have seen the tigers have done so while on board their vessels, and many have entered the water to see them first hand. Since the first Tiger Shark sightings 11 months ago, people have become more relaxed and intrigued with the idea of witnessing such beauty and grace. Many questions have been asked about my incounters, and requests have been made to dive in this area, in hopes of catching a glimps of the 12 foot long tiger named "Laverne".

While I do not think chumming the water outside of the harbor to see the sharks is a very good idea, I do think that public awareness should be increased, and the WHOLE TRUTH should be spoken about the sharks habits and habitats."Sharks are swimming around us everyday that we enter the ocean. Sharks are not the human-hunting animals that movies lead us to believe". Truthful education needs to be delivered to the general public, and I think that tourism is an excellent vehicle for this education, so are scientific documentaries.

I would like to watch a documentary about sharks that deal with how UN-likely you are to incounter a shark, any shark. I did see that show on the Discovery Channel where the guy is standing in a pool with dozens of sharks and his leg gets bit. Accidents will happen. Let us see how long it takes for someone to be bitten in a pool of Baracudda, or moray eels.

This is just my opinion. I am taking the time to study these animals in my own way, seeking answers to my questions where ever answers can be found. I do not think my methods make me a very good role model, and I am not the only one seeking answers to questions like "why didn't the shark attack the floating marlin with the stomachs hanging out of its mouth?"

I would like to see an increase in truthful education about sharks, which will lead to an increase in shark tourism, which will lead to an increase of demand for truthful education.

The opinions stated here are mine alone, as are the observations of Tiger Shark habits stated above. It is not my intention to offend anyone. It is your right to disagree with any and all that I have stated, just as it is my right to voice my opinion on this subject.

Matthew J D'Avella
Dive guide and Charter Boat Captain
No arguments here. I think the shark has, for a very long while been given a bad rap. Admittedly they are predators of the fiercest kind. They are the apex predator in their realm and one which should ALWAYS be respected. That said I have had numerous encounters with sharks off the coast of NC that have resulted in nothing more than a particularly beautiful dive with one of the most incredible creatures on our planet.

I worry about the effects of tourism on the shark population, but just as the rate of shark attack victims rises in proportion to the number of people in the water (hey the averages don't always work for you), so should the level of our understanding of these magnificent and beautiful creatures who share the underwater world with us. Wow, run on sentence - I apologize to the gramaticists out there!

I think the tiger shark footage would be most interesting to see as that certainly implies the sharks are learning where to follow the food chain. We clearly don't taste very good or act as a huge draw for these animals - both excellent signs.
Another fellow Big Islander on the board, welcome. I assume you are talking about Honokahau Boat Harbor right? I've heard of these guys or gals hanging around it is a cause for concern. There are a lot of people who frequent the area who are totally ignorant about sharks. Yes I agree that senseless killing of an apex predator is a waste and the parties involved should be held accountable. I have personally never had to kill a shark. Keep in mind that I have been diving for around 15 years mostly on the East and South side of the Island both reef and blue water and have seen numerous sharks. I have however encountered only one tiger and it simply swam by never diverging off of it's path. Now do I trust them? Absolutely not. Too many of my friends have been taxed or basicly bullied by sharks, large tigers in particular. A few months ago three of us went out to the Puna Coast and did a shore dive. The other two stayed in the 20 foot range while I ventured out to the 40 to 50 foot area. Vis was bad for that spot maybe 40 feet top to bottom so I didn't stay outside by myself for too long. I eventually worked my way into the shallows and started three pronging for smaller stuff. On the way back in, all three of us go our own way. As I approach the landing spot, I see one of the guys standing on the cliff signaling shark. After a quick scan, I keep trucking for the landing spot all the while keeping an eye out. On land, James tells me the story. Apparently he had shot a bunch of Uhu (parrotfish) and had just strung up a Nenue(rudderfish) when some papio (jacks) swim under him. After stringing up his gun, he dives and shoots one. Upon reaching the surface, James pulls his float to him a little too easily. He look at his float and no fish. Thinking his stringer just came off, he continues pulling only to see a six inch stub of what used to be his stringer. He promptly bails, never actually seeing the shark. About a week later I hear this story of a guy diving about a mile up the coast from us. In the middle of the dive he hears shouting from the cliff. Looking up, he sees a bunch of people waving and pointing behind him. Turning around he spots a 13-14 foot tiger just about to chow down on his stringer. He too bails and exits safely but goes home fishless.

Another diver told me that he was diving down in Waipio Valley. After shooting a few fish he decides to head for shore. In around 8 feet of water he feels a strong tug on his float. Turning around, he sees a very large head out of the water trashing his stringer. He too makes it to shore safely then tries to warn the surfers. Some head in while the majority don't care and keep surfing saying that they know there are sharks down there and it doesn't bother them.

There a couple of reasons why I really don't trust them, the number one reason being they are unpredictable. Case and point, three divers getting taxed but a dead marlin going unmolested. Number two tigers tend to be very territorial. The Puna spot is extremely fishy but strangely lacking in reef sharks. I suspect the resident chief keeps their number relatively small. Those harbor tigers have obviously set up residence there, probably content eating scraps. It just concerns me that people are getting comfortable with them. You sound like an experienced diver that knows how to handle himself in the water but again the ignorant and the inexperienced are the ones that usually get nailed. I agree that education is key and yes they really don't want to eat us but an investigative bite from one of these guys or gals could easily sever a limb or worse yet end a life. Be careful out there but keep up the filming. I would love to see some of your footage.

Aloha W3ac!
You are correct that I am refering to Honokohau Harbor. And I agree with you about the Tigers being unpredictable. I believe the potental for real danger is there, but my very limited experience tells me that I am not a regular food source.

I would like to think that I am aware of what the environment is telling me while I am in the water. One example is my filming of an Eagle Ray one afternoon while looking for Tigers. The ray was small, about 4 foot wing span. He was stuck to me like glue. I had to swim backwards to get his entire body in the frame of the video screen. Most of all he was facing me. (For those of you not familiar with eage rays, an eagle ray never faces you). This went on for nearly half an hour. I was concerned about what could possibily cause an eagle ray to act in this fashion, but I knew the answer was Tigers. My wife was 20 feet behind me photographing the tiger we now refer to as Laverne.

Perhaps my limited fear of tigers is a direct result of arrogance combined with ignorance, and all of this is fueled by a direct lack of knowledge about these animals.

The only fact that cannot be disputed is that sharks, like all the oceans inhabitants, are a necessary part of the oceanic eco-system. Nature has provided them with existance in the worlds oceans, and it should not be a human decision for their existance to continue, unmolested.

Back to the question asked by Kim, should there be any shark tourism. My answer to this question is a question. How will the tourism impact and affect the sharks, and is the impact worth the price of the knowledge gained?

As for my video footage, check out the 'Big Island Television' show called "Island Profiles". My wife, Kendra, and I do 3 minute spots for underwater education. The eagle ray footage should be coming up soon. I did not tell them (BITV) the story of how and why the footage was obtained. One step at a time, get the footage viewed and appreciated by the public, then tell the story.

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very nice


Really nice video of Ray Ray. If you have a link to view it, I'm sure others on the board would like to see it. Do you have anything of the tigers? Also, were you freediving while videotaping or were you on scuba? Either way it was good stuff...even the disney music.

No link yet, but I'm working on it. Future link site will be the business web page for the dive business. Hopefully in the next couple of months. As for the Tiger videos, none I will share....for now. Not being greedy or selfish, just conservative. I'll email a photo of Laverne to you.

Got the pic, excellent shot. This is another one that others would love to see.

I don't personally like the idea of feeding sharks from boats. Animals can respond to a stimuli, such as ringing a bell then feeding them. After a while the animal will expect to get fed when the bell rings. I shudder to think that there are sharks out there who sence the vibration of a propellor, see the outline of a boat and expect to have food thrown overboard. However it could be a diver doing a rollback entry into the water.

I would like to see the practice stopped. There are plenty of underwater aquariums around the world where these animals can be observed without resorting to antagonising them for a few tourists.

My opinion anyway.
Absolutely. My concern is the feeding of sharks underwater by divers as well. How scary is it to think that sharks could learn to identify divers with fresh meat - as the stingrays at sting ray city learned to do with snorklers in grand cayman?

I believe that divers, fisherman, tourists and others should be educated about sharks, but my question is how?
I would also agree that feeding sharks from boat or in the water with a bait ball is completely unnatural behavior for the sharks. I can understand why we have these things. For someone who doesn't live near an ocean, the chance to see a shark or other creatures is rare treat. Since most people get a weeks vacation here and there, they want to see as much as possible on it. I must admit I really enjoyed playing with and feeding the stingrays at Stingray city, but I relize that this is only reenforcing a unnatural feeding opportunity. They do try to give some educational info about the rays. I am sure they do the same on the shark feeding tours, but while earning a few bucks and educating a few tourists that will hopefully champion the efforts to protect the great creatures, they are basically getting a feeding time experience at the big outdoor aquarium. Feeding sharks near public swimming areas or harbors even if the sharks are disinterested in humans, can only have negative consequenses sooner or later for the sharks or an unfortunate human.
Ahh, feeding fish, I used to not think too much of it. As a former ocean scientist, and diver for 32 years I might have thought I knew enough. Then the wolf eel at Neah Bay (Washington State) taught me a lesson. I found it at about 15m in its hole peeking out at the water world. I started taking pictures, and with every snap out it came, another few cm. My flash batteries were low, so I had to wait 15 seconds for it to cycle. After about 6 pictures, the wolf eel was all the way out and laying on the bottom right in front of me. I'm killing time waiting for the flash. Then I realize its looking back and forth at my two hands, one holding the camera, and the other holding the flash, With a quick movement it grabbed my finger on my right hand and "nibbled" to see if I had food. When it realized I did not, it immediately turned and headed back to its hole, done with me. Fortunately I was just laughing in my regulator, and not nursing a bad bite. So no fish feeding for me!

Here in the NW US we regularly see bluntnose sixgill sharks (2 to 4 m each), up close, .5m. Yes that's .5m. I don't plan on letting them think I have food for them. Last month I could see the serations on the teeth of a 3 m male during our encounter. Lots of adrenalin on that dive!!
Don't those wolf eels have a reputation for being very friendly? I thought most of them you could actuallly pet. Those big ones have some pretty large teeth in front!!!
Hey dallasdiver,
You know your Pacific fish. Yes, the wolf eels are friendly, and it was clear to me that this one had been fed enough that he was just looking for another handout. He was about 1.5 m, so medium size, and not so old that he had that real cadverous look that the old ones get.

This one didn't have any teeth in the front, lucky for me. So I just laughed that all he wanted was food. It was like when a dog discovers you have finished your hot dog, and didn't give him any - boom, gone...

The sixgill sharks are the big thrill. I'll be out at the same spot I saw the 3m one tomorrow night. Wish me luck 'cause I'll have my camera this time!!
Ed :p
I've seen those six gill sharks at the aquariums, they really have that prehistoric look to them. I don't think I would want to see them at night though. I've done some diving at night off Coco's Island off Costa Rica which is shark infested water. Not uncommon to see 40+ sharks on a dive. Only a few agressive species like the Silky shark and the Galapagos, the rest are the White tips and Hammerheads. It was quite unnerving to have a shark pass at foot or so just over your shoulder at night that you never knew was there. I always felt one was always just behind me.
I would love to go to Coco"s. I have seen a couple of tv shows on it and it looks great. We only see the sixgills at night here in Puget Sound. In BC they see them during the day too. Our group didn't seee one last night. I guess I've become kind of a shark junky since seeing a great white from a cage in california.
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