Great White Shark study in the limelight at the Two Oceans Aquarium, Cape Town.

DICT founder, Wilfred Chivell, addresses the visitors to the media event.

DICT founder, Wilfred Chivell, addresses the visiting media representatives and tourism affiliates at event held at the Two Oceans Aquarium.

It is now evident that the impact of angling and interference pressure on the Great White Sharks , before they were protected in South Africa in 1991, had a much greater effect than anticipated. There is no evidence of a tangible recovery in the numbers of this species.

Wilfred and Susan discussing the study with media representative, Danie Keet.

Wilfred and Susan discussing the study with media representative, Danie Keet.

A press release evening highlighting the findings and results of a new groundbreaking study by the Dyer Island Conservation Trust (DICT) and Marine Dynamics Shark Tours was hosted at the Two Oceans Aquarium Think Tank on Tuesday 18th June 2013. Journalists, environmental activists and interested parties from the Tourism sector were invited to attend this event.

Wilfred Chivell, founder and chair of the DICT, and owner of Marine Dynamics Shark Tours explains, “Since the protection of this species in South African waters in the early 90’s, South Africa has been at the forefront of Great White Shark research. Now, for the first time in our study history, we have an open population estimate study, which used the ‘Darwin’ photo identification software, showing that this species is under a lot more strain than we initially anticipated. We offer a tangible contribution to the research and study of species to inform conservation authorities, urging them to effectively revise and implement their conservation practices.”

A previous Great White Shark population estimate on a regional level in the Overstrand area in the early 90’s, put the population at roughly 2000 or more. The result of the newly released study paints a very bleak picture, estimating the population that visits our coastline at a mere 908 individuals, 50% less than originally anticipated.

The Great White Shark is currently classified as Vulnerable according to the IUCN Red Data list. The DICT and MD feel that South Africa should now, that the new study has indicated these totals may be incorrect, revise this status and up list this species to a Threatened classification.

“We need the full cooperation and support from our national conservation authorities, who hold and inherent responsibility to protect this species. They should make the findings from this study known on an international level, especially to countries where this species is not protected – and create a worldwide alliance in aid of the Great White Shark.  We cannot afford to lose more time with the serious conservation of this species” urges Chivell.

The DICT and MD have taken a whole new approach to the release of the information and results gained from this study. An open source platform was used to release the study, and an informative infographic explaining in laymen terms the findings and results were released on many social platforms. This makes the information available to the nation; after all, the Great White Shark is a national flagship species, so everyone should share in the research results.

This, combined with the Press Release event sporting our full panel of Biologists, Alison Towner, Oliver Jewell, Michelle Wcisel and Ryan Reisinger together the infamous ED who spent all of the tedious hours tracing and matching the fins, makes for a very impactful study, with far reaching effects.

The infographic can be viewed at http://www.sharkwatchsa.com/projects/great-white-shark-population/ , and  http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0066035#authcontrib for the open source publication.

WWF SA, CITES and the IUCN has been approached with this research findings, as a supportive and informative guideline for the formulation of future conservation legislation of this species.

For more info you can contact the DICT office@dict.org.za, alternatively contact us on  082 907 5607. Please also visit our web page at www.dict.org.za where you can browse through our various projects and find out how you too, can support studies like these.

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