South African court convicts fisherman for killing great white shark

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 February, 2013, 6:01am


A South African court has convicted a man for killing a great white shark in the country's first ruling on such a case, the agriculture and fisheries ministry said.

The landmark decision was lauded by conservationists, who said they hoped the move would help dissuade others from hunting the protected species.

A Western Cape court last Friday convicted recreational angler Leon Bekker of catching the predator in March 2011. He was given a 120,000 rand (HK$105,000) fine or a 12-month jail prison term, a sentence suspended for five years, according to local media, which also published pictures showing Bekker dragging the 2.5 metre shark on to a rocky shore.

"This is the first great white shark case and conviction in any South African court," the ministry said.

Advocacy group the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) welcomed the ruling.

"For authorities to take such clear action is an excellent indication of their commitment to upholding protected species status," WWF South Africa spokeswoman Eleanor Yeld-Hutchings said.

"The not-inconsiderable sentencing... will hopefully be a deterrent to these practices in South Africa," she added.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a world body that works to protect endangered wildlife, has listed great white sharks as a vulnerable species.

Present around the globe, the fearsome predators can grow to more than six metres in length. Commercial fishermen prize their fins, jaws, teeth, liver oil, skin and meat.

"There is much anecdotal evidence to suggest that they continue to be targeted by the recreational fishery as a 'trophy' species, and also that there is a lucrative ongoing trade in white shark body parts," Yeld-Hutchings said.

According to the eastern province KwaZulu-Natal Shark Board, more than 1,200 great whites roam the South African coast.

In 1991, South Africa became the first country to pass laws to protect the animal.

Since then, researchers say the population of the shark species has been able to grow reasonably healthy in number.

Many other countries, including the US and Australia, have followed suit to protect the shark.