Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Defenders of the Patagonian toothfish

Simon's Town is in full naval fig right now, not to mention all the magnificent yachts skimming the bay in summer regattas. The harbour and town were photographed from the top of a winding mountain pass that leads to Redhill/Cape Point. The comely vessel in the other picture is, if I am not mistaken, one of the four new corvettes bought at a cost of countless millions instead of building houses for the poor or fighting Aids, just for starters. They were just one batch of goodies in an arms deal that also includes Swedish jetfighters. It comes in at about 90 billion rand or $15bn dollars.

The thing is, who are we going to fight to get our money's worth? The corvettes, apart from taking part in incessant war games, will seemingly be used to pursue and interdict rogue fishing vessels from naughty countries trying to scoop up stocks of the Patagonian toothfish -- dubbed "black hake" -- which are off limits. There have been a couple of chases ending in pirate trawlers being boarded by armed sailors off the southern tip of Argentina, which also polices the Southern Ocean.

Buying four state-of-the-art corvettes to chase sleazebag trawler captains strikes me as extreme overkill. Perhaps they could also be deployed to shell the bejesus out of the Great White sharks that have come ever closer in shore at our gentle cove and taken bites out of surfers -- and in one case gulped down a very sweet and dignified elderly woman who took her swim every day, winter and summer, from the rocks -- in a red bathing cap. The shark homed right in on her and basically just carried her off. The remains were never found. This sort of thing is bad for tourism, although I haven't noticed it in any way inhibiting the invasion of coaches carrying hordes of Chinese visitors ready to photograph absolutely everything. I expect they'd see a shark attack as a fine memento to show the folks back home. Still, various non-injurious methods of shark deterrence have been broached, since these horrific creatures have their defenders (they seem to suggest we should get out of the water, since it belongs to the sharks). But our brave little flotilla could be profitably employed exercising massive deterrence off the swimming beach.

The downside to the navy's new toys is that guns are tested every summer and tend to scare the whales away. An outcry finally forced the admiralty to do its shooting before the Southern Rights steam in around August. In the navy's favour is the beneficence it bestows on Simon's Town, preserved in all its Victorian splendour, and cared for in absolutely shipshape and Bristol fashion.


Blogger herschelian said...

Many, many moons ago when I was a slip of a girl (no, really) we had a house right at the far end of the catwalk in Fish Hoek. I really don't recall EVER hearing of Great Whites in False Bay back then. There weren't even the same numbers of whales, just one or two from time to time. Is this because of global warming, or was I just too absorbed with other things to notice? Answers on a postcard please.

7:40 PM  
Blogger DavetheF said...

I have been here 10 years, and had never heard of a Great White even being spotted here in the bay until about three years ago. It does seem that chumming by shark dive operators may well be the cause; the sharks associate people with food. Or confuse them with food ...

9:44 PM  
Blogger hendrix said...

which is an easy (if unfortunate for the people concerned) mistake to make. It could also be that global warning plays its part - sharks have also been spotted in the med (although thankfully infrequently).

12:21 AM  

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