A historical overview of the origins of anti-shark measures in Natal, 1940-1980.
This thesis studies the origins of anti-shark measures in Natal, highlighting the relationship between beach recreation, anti-shark measures and the important influence of human perceptions of sharks. It focuses on key events such as the "Black December" when seven shark attacks occurred off the South Coast of Natal between December 1957 and April 1958; the rise of beach recreation in Natal; the role of the press (and later the electronic media) in the dissemination of the 'man-eating' shark myth; and the deployment of anti-shark measures off the Natal coast. The increased popularity of the beach in Natal during the 1940s and 1950s meant that the beach was frequently being used for recreational activities. However, with this increase there was an increase in shark attacks off the Natal coast. The relationship between beach recreation and shark attacks is key to this study. The first nets were deployed off the Durban beachfront in 1952. The influence of the press, the increase of popular beach recreational activities in the 1950s and the unfortunate events of "Black December" led to the deployment of the nets off the South Coast in the 1960s, and these are currently still in use. Alongside the deployment of the nets was a rise in scientific research into shark biology and anti-shark measures in the 1960s. This thesis traces shifting trends in shark research from the 1960s to the 1970s. For instance, in the 1960s, shark research focused primarily on shark biology and the ways in which the study of the behaviour of sharks could prevent shark attacks. In. the 1970s, shark research shifted towards the study of anti-shark measures. Both beach recreation and shark research have influenced human perceptions of sharks. This thesis covers a period when the human perception of sharks was more hostile than it would become after the rise of marine conservation and the commercial regard for the preservation of sharks from the 1980s. It also analyses the human fear of sharks and how this fear has developed over time.