Don't blame us, says under-fire shark filmmaker

2012-04-19 20:55
Johannesburg - Shark documentary maker Chris Fischer on Thursday defended the actions of his team, the target of stinging criticism on Facebook after a man was killed by a shark in the vicinity of where they had released chum (shark bait) a few days before, to draw the elusive creatures nearer for filming purposes.

A 20-year-old bodyboarder, David Lilienfeld, died after a shark, presumed to be a Great White as big as 5m, bit off his right leg near Kogel Bay near CapeTown.

Fischer, who was busy with a production for National Geographic, posted a message on the television show Shark Men's Facebook page denying that his team was responsible for the man's death.

"There has been tragic news in False Bay today. A body-boarder has been taken by a white shark. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family that has been affected," he said.

"We departed False Bay over three days ago after working there from Sunday afternoon... to Monday afternoon... During our 24 hrs of work... there we chummed 24kg of pilchards [sardines]."

This was less than the amount released by each of three cage diving boats per day, Fischer said.

"We are terribly sorry again for the loss of this family and at this time our thoughts and prayers are with them."

Facebook users attacked Fischer on his Facebook page.

On the Shark Men Facebook page, South Africans blamed the documentary-makers for the man's death.

"Shame on you! Piss off! So angry, that's my home break where this happened. Hope you, your boat and your life sinks to the deepest parts of the ocean...," wrote one person.

Another user posted: "Your chumming has just got a kid killed, you were warned but preferred ratings - condolences to the family, RIP."

The hostility continued with: "This is all your fault - don't mess with these sharks unless you are willing to get into the water! You clowns!! Go back to your land of Greed, Insolence and Disrespect!!!"


Fischer has been in the country for the past month filming sharks in their natural habitat for the documentary Shark Men.

After the attack, Biodiversity and Coastal Research director Alan Boyd cancelled Fischer's research permit.

"This incident is a tremendous tragedy and I'm very shocked. No more field work will be proceeding from here on out," said Boyd.

Initially, when the permit was approved, there were fears that chumming could attract sharks to populated beaches.

At the time, Dirk Schmidt, a wildlife photographer and author of White Sharks, said it was prudent for a high shark alert to be issued.

His concern was that up to five tons of chum (bait) would be used to attract sharks to the boat. He said the chum slick could be blown closer to beaches by on-shore winds.

Despite this, Boyd issued the permit, saying chumming would have little effect close to shore.

Read more on:    cape town  |  shark attacks

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