Day 249 – A Fun Day

I helped out with one of the school Fun Days today. We went to Fishhoek beach and we had a great time. It was a reminder that if kids are allowed to just get on with being kids, then they will be kids.
We did the things that the kids wanted to do.
We played in the water, we played football, we built sandcastles.

It was a fantastic morning.

Fishhoek was showing off its tropical side and I did get a bit toasted by the sun – only on the bits where the sunblock had been washed off by the warm sea – my eyes are still hurting from the light bouncing off the fine, white sand.

I have also brought quite a lot of the fine, white sand home with me. It is everywhere. It will be everywhere for weeks to come.

A small price to pay for a good day out.

When is a shark net not a shark net?

Well, when it’s an EXCLUSION NET, obviously. Colour me educated by the sharkspotters website:

Yesterday, 29 Feb 2012, the City of Cape Town issued a press release of a proposal to trial an exclusion net in Fish Hoek Bay ( Almost immediately shark nets (as used in KwaZulu Natal) were confused with the proposal of the exclusion net in Fish Hoek. Below is a summary of the key differences.

What are they? 
Shark nets are large-meshed, anchored gill nets.
How do they work? They entangle and catch sharks reducing the population and numbers of sharks within the environment and thereby reduce the risk of shark attack.
Layout and structure: Nets are 213.5 – 304.8 m long by 6.3 m deep, have a black mesh of 51 cm (stretched) and are set parallel to the coast in 10-14 m of water some 300-500 m from shore.
Entanglements of marine animals: Not selective and result in by-catch of a range of other marine species such as turtles, dolphins, and whales. Risk of entanglement high
Ecological impact: Considered high.
Areas where used: KZN (South Africa), Australia
What are they? Exclusion nets are fine-meshed nets and are not gill nets.
How do they work? Nets are designed to act as a barrier, physically excluding sharks, thereby preventing them from entering an enclosed area.
Layout and structure: Net is set to enclose a specified area, and stretches from the seafloor to the surface. Mesh size is 6cm stretched (3cm x 3cm on the square). Size of net is dependent on area to be enclosed.
Entanglements of marine animals: The fine mesh of the nets prevents capture or entanglement of marine species and the net acts as a barrier. Risk of entanglement low.
Ecological impact: Considered low.
Areas where used: Usually in calm waters like in Hong Kong and Seychelles.

The City is considering this because of the much publicised recent shark attacks at Fishhoek and Clovelly and the impact on the local Fishhoek area and community, including:

  • the perception of it as an unsafe swimming area due to regular shark sightings resulting in bathers being kept out of the water;
  • the impact that this has on local businesses, especially the tourism industry;
  • the need to protect the natural environment which is a unique marine asset; and
  • the need to be aware of and respectful of the current trek net rights at Fish Hoek Beach and the importance of these rights to the livelihoods of a number of people. As such the City will work with the rights holders to ensure minimal impact on those rights should the exclusion net proceed.

I see no problem with it and it’s good to see the City reacting and considering the needs and the economics of the community without going over the top and using the environmentally damaging shark nets link those in KZN. In addition, this is a trial installation – if it doesn’t work, it gets removed. That’s what trial installations are for.

Yep – good idea.

More Logic From Lewis

We’re not huge fans of the self-titled “Human Polar Bear”, Lewis Pugh, here at 6000 miles… as you may remember from such posts as Do Some Fracking Reading from earlier this year. Pugh’s tactics to get people onto his side rely on emotion and irrationality rather than any sort of logic – which is an unnecessarily juvenile and unhelpful approach to what are (or should be) important debates.

Well, now he’s back with a corker of a tweet from this morning:

Cue over 40 sycophantic retweets and you can almost imagine people reading it and thinking “By golly, he’s correct! People die on the roads and they never shut them down for 5 days! I must forward this to all my friends and followers immediately.”

But for those who can manage to get past the kneejerk reaction and who choose to analyse further, what is it that Lewis actually saying here? It seems to me that he is irritated by the dichotomous reactions to the shark attack in Fishhoek last week and the horrendous statistics of fatalities on our local roads. In my mind, there’s absolutely no reason that these two completely unlinked things should be treated in the same manner, but Lewis obviously disagrees.

So what exactly does he suggest? Well, based on the tweet above, I guess it’s one of two things: either he wants Fishhoek beach reopened or he wants the RSA roads closed for 5 days.

Of course, choosing to close down the entire road network of a country is not a decision to be taken lightly. The effect on the economy of even a minor early morning fender bender on Hospital Bend and the subsequent delays is often quoted as running into six figures. And that’s just one road, in one city, for just one hour.
Can you even begin to imagine the impact of shutting every road in the entire country down for five days?

According to this page, the network of roads in South Africa amounts to a staggering total of 755,000 kilometres. And Lewis wants all of that shut down for 5 days?

Does Mr Pugh perhaps have shares in the local traffic cone industry?

That’s not going to work.
Better then that we find an alternative, and of course, Lewis has that covered: let’s reopen Fishhoek beach.

This is an undoubtedly brilliant plan, because not only is it easier to do than closing three-quarters of a million kilometres of roads, but it also uses fewer traffic cones and there’s obviously nothing that could assist Cape Town’s vital tourism industry more than the city being labelled as the Shark Attack Capital Of The World. People will flock from all over the planet to swim in our waters and enjoy traumatic amputations of their lower limbs or – if they choose to take the five star package – death, at the hands of the super-predators in our waters.
Those ridiculing the buffoonery of Michael Cohen will have to SIT DOWN, because purposefully wading out into shark-infested waters is the new black, according to Lewis.

Does Mr Pugh perhaps have shares in the local private medical industry?

Because I’m struggling to see any benefit to anyone else in putting people at great risk of getting attacked by the obviously hungry great whites in False Bay. Perhaps Lewis, with his impeccable aquatic pedigree, would like to be the first to go for a dip beyond the breakers. Shall we get the air ambulance ready, Lewis, since you’ve already closed all the roads?

And as an aside, even while I’m writing this:

Is there a way that we could reduce the number of people killed on our local roads? Is there a better way to symbiotically manage human/shark interactions off our coastline? I guess that the answer to both of these questions is “possibly” – maybe even “probably”.
But despite deciding to comment on these issues Lewis Pugh once again offers nothing realistic, sensible or helpful to the debate.

We warned you

Remember this – the post where we told you that the Daily Mail was horrendously inaccurate in its description of the fatal shark attack in Fishhoek back in January 2010? (If you haven’t read it yet, you really should.)

Well, they’re at it again over the latest shark attack at the same beach. And yes, I assure you that it is the same beach. This despite their highlighting of Hout Bay as being where the attack took place – note the words “Hout” and “Bay” there in the circle:

It’s an easy and understandable mistake  to make though. After all, when you type “Clovelly Beach” into Google Maps, it actually takes you immediately to Hout Bay, 25 km away from “Clovelly Beach” and on the Atlantic Seaboard, rather than to “Clovelly Beach” in Fishhoek on False Bay.

Wait. No. It doesn’t do that at all.

I guess that we should congratulate them on correctly identifying South Africa though, even though there is a big hint in the name.