50 SUPPORT SHARK CONSERVATION You can help by spreading the positive word to reduce ignorance and fear and not supporting practices that harm sharks. For example, do not support the sale of shark jaws, teeth or fins; don’t buy any shark products; don’t support towns that use baited hooks to manage shark populations; report suspicious activities and document them with photos to the Department of Environmental Affairs’ Oceans and Coasts branch; dive with them, experience them and increase your knowledge so that you, in turn, can educate and teach others about sharks. diver, Mike noticed that sharks did not swim through the kelp forests in South Africa, even when pursuing Cape fur seals. This inspired the idea for a visual barrier resembling kelp to have the potential to become the first eco-friendly alternative to shark nets. In 2011, when Mike met Dr Craig O’Connell, a marine biologist exploring the use of electro-sensory stimuli, such as permanent magnets to repel sharks, the two joined forces and the Sharksafe Barrier was born. The Sharksafe Barrier is made of four rows of large, vertical polyurethane pipes fitted with magnets that move with the ocean currents and tides to manipulate the swim patterns of sharks. These magnets overstimulate the unique electro-sensory system of sharks which detect the electromagnetic fields. This makes the Sharksafe Barrier shark-specific, so other marine animals can swim through it without issue. It is now undergoing final scientific and engineering testing ahead of its first beach deployment. ELEPHANT HIGHWAY After a spectacular brunch of prawns and local lobster back in Mike’s garden, we are now refuelled enough to pack up Mojo and set off to explore further north. We begin the trip toward Vilanculos, where Mike hopes to encounter the plentiful dugongs that dine on the sea grass there. The roadway from Tofo is fairly stable, but massive potholes appear a little further north, so it’s important to have a reliable car that can cope with sand, rocks and uneven surfaces. Mojo, a 60th Edition Land Cruiser 76, is well suited to these conditions. On the way, Mike turns off the tar road and drives down a sandy track where it’s been rumoured there may be an ancient baobab forest, SAFE FOR SHARKS AND MAN “The main issue is education,” says Mike. “The region must preserve its marine species for its thriving dive tourism industry. Culling the bull sharks won’t help, because their migratory patterns mean new ones just move in from other places to replace the culled ones. Therefore, we are hoping to introduce a threestep management plan which includes scientific research so we can properly understand shark populations here; safety education for fishermen; and the installation of the Sharksafe Barrier.” Mike is one of the inventors of the eco-friendly Sharksafe Barrier, which prevents negative encounters between sharks and people. As a prominent great white shark free BELOW: Mike Rutzen does research on great white sharks to understand their behaviour in an endeavour to both save these animals and educate the public on their unique place within the ecosystem.
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