Sharks on the menu : a review and critical analysis of the regulation of sharks internationally and in South Africa.
Industrial fishing practices and market-demand for shark products (in particular meat and fins) are decimating shark populations in many parts of the world, threatening stock collapses, species extinctions and broader ecological impacts. This dissertation explores the development of the international legal regime applicable to the conservation and management of sharks, and seeks to document and provide a critical analysis of the fisheries management and conservation instruments and measures that apply or can be applied to sharks. This is followed by a review and critical analysis of the South African legal regime applicable to the conservation and management of sharks, which to the writer’s knowledge has not been clearly documented in referenced research. Both the international and South African regulatory regimes relating to the conservation and management of sharks are characterized by fragmentation, lack of co-ordination and enforcement challenges that risks duplication of effort and regulatory gaps. However, it is argued that the existing mix of hard and soft law instruments does provide a suite of regulatory options, guiding principles and frameworks which, if effectively coordinated, refined, implemented and enforced, could go a long way towards protecting sharks from overexploitation internationally and within South African waters. It is argued that the precautionary and ecosystems approaches need to applied at both a national and international level to ensure that shark are managed in an ecologically sustainable manner. Where appropriate, a moratorium (or at least a significant limitation) on the killing of sharks (through both directed and by-catch fisheries) should be imposed until such time as sufficient scientific data is available to demonstrate that shark fishing does not pose a significant risk of serious or irreversible harm. It is argued further that South Africa needs to make a serious commitment to improving shark conservation and management measures by making sufficient human and financial resources available to achieve its shark conservation and management objectives, and that the fragmented national legal regime could be enhanced and rationalised by promulgating a single shark-specific regulation that deals specifically with the conservation and management of sharks.