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This week a petition to ban shark nets off the KwaZulu-Natal coast went viral on Facebook. Source: unsplash.com

“South Africa’s population of great white sharks are on the brink of extinction. Part of the problem is shark nets, used to prevent attacks. These shark nets are placed out in the waters around beaches and entangle sharks in their deadly web, killing them in the process.”

This follows the explosive research results from Stellenbosch University researcher, Dr Sara Andreotti, showing great white sharks were in danger of extinction.

The Independent On Saturday spoke to marine scientists, activists and divers to find out how often great whites are spotted in KZN waters and if the species could disappear.

According to the KZN Sharks Board’s Dr Matt Dicken, a member of the South African White Shark Research Group, white sharks are recorded throughout the year off the KZN coast, although most are found in the cooler waters off the Cape, especially around seal colonies where the sharks can feed on seal pups.

Sharks’ Board statistics indicate the average number of great white sharks caught per year in shark nets over the past ten years is 26, with five of those being released alive.

Dicken said, “This equates to an average mortality of 21 sharks per annum along a 320km stretch of coastline.

Other causes for shark deaths include being accidentally caught in the nets of commercial fisheries, as well as a massive recreational fishing industry, especially trophy hunting for the great white’s jaws. Pollution from rivers is also thought to have an impact.