Unusual sight: Monster Great White caught off KwaZulu Natal coast

2009-10-30 00:00

PHOTOS that are being circulated of a monster Great White shark, taken at Mossel Bay, are not a hoax. And what’s more, the massive shark was an adolescent, and was caught off the Dolphin Coast of KwaZulu-Natal.

Yesterday, Craig Harris of Dirty Harry Fishing Charters told The Witness that waters around the north coast are teeming with sharks, including Great Whites.

He said previously it would have been unusual to see one Great White every three years, but he has seen four this year already.

Harris said he recently witnessed an astounding incident in which an enormous Great White robbed fishermen of their catch.

The Witness tracked down fisherman Gary McLoughlin, who said the incident occurred while he was on his paddleski fishing in the waves of Zinkwazi about three months ago.

“We had hooked a barracuda and were fighting it, when a massive Great White shark, about three-and-a-half to four metres in length and weighing between 600 to 700 kg, breached the waves and grabbed the barracuda.”

He speculated that it could have been the same shark that was photographed.

McLoughlin said the shark breached right up out of the water five or six times trying to remove the lines from the fish.

Commenting on the shark in the photographs, Geremy Cliff, head of research at the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board, confirmed that the 4,3-metre shark was caught in the shark nets off Zinkwazi beach on August 31.

It was dissected in Mossel Bay last Friday. The female shark had not yet attained maturity, he said.

“A shark that size is not very common, but in 2002 a 4,7-metre, 1 160 kg Great White was caught off Richards Bay.”

He said Great Whites have been protected in South Africa since 1991, but based on catches, there is no documented evidence to show that their numbers have greatly increased.

There is no need for beach users to be concerned, he said, but added that he doubted whether the shark that ate McLoughlin’s fish was the same one, as sharks do not stay in the same area for long.

Cliff said the shark was still alive, but weak, when it was found by a KZN Sharks Board boat crew.

It was removed and towed slowl­y offshore, then tagged before being released. “The shark was clearly disorientated and it must have swum back inshore, because the following morning it was found back in the nets, dead.”

He said the shark was then sent to Umhlanga for dissection.

“The decision to delay the shark’s dissection … was taken in response to a request from Windfall Films, a UK-based company specialising in documentary production.”

Windfall Films will feature this dissection in their second series of Inside Nature’s Giants.

“White shark researcher Enrico Gennari, based at Oceans Research, with headquarters in Mossel Bay, used the opportunity to continue his investigation of the white shark’s highly specialised circulatory system. The white shark is one of the few shark species able to maintain a core body temperature which is higher than that of the surrounding water.”

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