Dear Minister

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

We, as concerned South Africans, scuba divers and tourism operators are deeply concerned that the EU and the USA have been opposing urgent action, in direct opposition to scientific advice, to prevent the collapse of the endangered North Atlantic Shortfin Mako shark.

It saddens us to see the EU and USA shy away from their leadership role as a science-based, global champion of shark conservation.

Obstructing international action on protection of Mako sharks not only harms the shark population, but risks cascading negative effects on the ecosystem and the responsible, sustainable businesses that depend on it.

We understand that ICCAT will resume Mako negotiations in July. We are hopeful that South Africa will soon announce its support for the proposal from Senegal and Canada to establish science-based Mako catch limits (a North Atlantic ban and a 2001t South Atlantic quota). We look forward to your confirmation of this position and discussing how we can work together to ensure success. 

We kindly urge you to act in the best interests of our vulnerable oceanic ecosystem and valuable dive tourism industry by protecting our most imperiled shark populations.

Dive tourism in South Africa is a multi-million Rand industry and provides thousands of jobs, enough so that we as a country, should have significant interest in ensuring the long-term health of our marine ecosystem. This not only secures jobs but also food security. As we adapt after the recent COVID-19 induced lockdowns and subsequent financial collapse - to save what is left of our industry, and to look forward to a possible robust reopening - we are keenly aware that improving ocean health by preventing further depletion of key predators is paramount to our and South Africa’s success.

We trust you will do the right thing.


Thank you.


Thank you very much for supporting this cause!

CAUSE

Sharks are crucial to marine ecosystems. They maintain a balance in populations of prey species and keep the ocean healthy by removing ill or diseased animals. They are also an important resource supporting local economies through fishing and as an attraction to dive tourists. Sharks are in a global decline. Overfishing has reduced many shark populations around the world to levels that threaten their continued existence. Shark numbers have fallen by more than 80% in many cases, and the continued existence of some species is at immediate risk in some regions. Project AWARE is part of a group of organizations known as the Shark League -http://www.sharkleague.org/ - advocating shark conservation in global fisheries. One of the major ways they do this is to show the importance of sharks to the dive community, which is a large sector of many countries’ tourism economies, such as South Africa’s. One specific species that the Shark League is looking to protect from overfishing is the Shortfin Mako shark in the Atlantic Ocean, where it is caught without any limits by fishing vessels mainly from the US and Europe. South Africa is an important country that decides on conservation measures for the Atlantic, via an inter-governmental decision body known as ICCAT (The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas). ICCAT has representatives from every country that fishes in the Atlantic, which meets every year to decide how much fish (tuna, swordfish, sharks etc.) can be caught in the Atlantic. Shortfin Mako sharks are caught in tuna fisheries and kept for their meat and fins. In 2019, Shortfin Mako sharks were classed as Endangered due to overfishing. Their populations are so low that fisheries scientists recommend a complete ban on catching them to give them a chance to recover. Even if catches stopped today, populations still would not return to full health until 2045. Although South Africa is a country that does not catch Mako sharks, it still has not yet supported the call to end overfishing of this species. 

GOAL

We want everyone here to help Project AWARE make South Africa a Mako shark champion. As mentioned, ICCAT is the organization that makes decisions on how many fish (including Mako sharks) can be caught in the Atlantic. Despite the scientists recommending an emergency stop on all catches, there are still not enough countries calling for a ban on Mako catches. There are several countries, led by Canada and Senegal, and backed up by others such as China, Japan, Taiwan, Uruguay and Egypt that are calling to end Mako fishing, but they are being blocked by the US and the European Union. So far, South Africa has not voiced its support to end Mako shark overfishing. This is where Project AWARE needs your help in calling for South Africans to support protecting endangered Mako sharks!

TAKE ACTION

We are taking action by making divers aware of the plight of the Mako, what YOU can do to help is read through and sign the pettition adressed to South Africa Minister of the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Barbara Creecy and our Minister of the Department of Tourism, Mmamoloko Kubayi -Ngubane. You can further help our awarenes campaign by tagging #maketime4makos and #divers4mako every time you post a diving pic on your social platform of choice. This should create a vibe we hope that spreads to other divers and public alike! You can also do your PADI Aware Shark Conservation Speciality by contacting any of the PADI centres and Instructors listed below and become an ambasador for Sharks! Courses are severely discounted as we have received limited sponsorship from Project Aware to promote our cause!

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