- South African Man Convicted for Shark Killing
- Royal Society of Medicine Warns of Potential for Communicable Disease from Cayman Turtle Farm
- Philippines Rejects US Assessment of Damage to Tubbataha Reef
A resident of a South African city in the province of Western Cape has been convicted and sentenced for catching and killing of a great white shark in March of 2011. The entire incident was recorded in photographs for which Leon Bekker knowingly posed for with his catch, the act of which has been illegal in South Africa since 1991. When asked why he did not cut the shark loose after catching it, Bekker responded that the waves had washed the shark ashore, but the pictorial evidence says otherwise, as the photos clearly show Bekker measuring the shark with a tape measure and giving a proud thumbs up as he crouched next to the dying animal. Bekker also claimed that he was a beginner sportfisherman, but again, photographic evidence contradicted his statement, as the local sport shop had at least 12 different framed photos of Bekker posing with shark catches, many of which have been reportedly removed since the March 2011 incident went viral on the internet. Bekker was sentenced to a fine of $12,000 USD or one year in jail, which has been suspended for 5 years. The ruling was a landmark one for the shark-populated region, as there had never been a precedent for prosecution of a crime of this nature in South Africa, where great white sharks are protected by law.
We have been keeping you up-to-date on the situation at the Cayman Turtle Farm, and the most recent information just further reinforces the need for changes at this popular tourist attraction in the Cayman Islands. A new report issued by the Royal Society of Medicine found that handling the captive turtles, an activity that is heartily encouraged by the staff of Cayman Turtle Farm, exposes humans to toxic contaminants and zoonotic pathogens that can be transferred from the reptiles to humans. Common reactions to exposure to these viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites are gastrointestinal discomfort and flu-like symptoms, but some can be afflicted with septicaemia, pneumonia, meningitis, and acute renal failure. Cayman Turtle Farm denies any risk to tourists despite the findings, even going so far as to blame the World Society for the Protection of Animals for the research, saying, “This is a clear effort by the WSPA to undermine the business of the Cayman Turtle Farm in its on-going goal to shut down our operations, since their campaign thus far has been unsuccessful.”
Managers of the Philippine World Heritage reef that was crashed into by a US Navy minesweeper vessel have rejected the assessment of the damage submitted by the US Navy, namely because Philippine officials were not permitted to inspect the damage themselves. A previous agreement allowed for the 10-day assessment of the reef to be attended by biologists of both nations, but the conditions of that agreement were reneged by the US Navy. Current damage is figured to be approximately 4,000 square meters of the reef, for which a fine of $300 per square meter will be owed. The US government has made several public apologies and has offered to donate $100,000 to a Philippine university to aid coral restoration research and to help fund improving cartographic information on the reef. The US Navy has yet to respond as to why they ignored calls from the Philippine Coast Guard that their course was putting them in direct danger of colliding with the reef.