Its a fault free crime!


Leon BekkerIt’s a fault free crime An unprecedented criminal case came to a close on 1 February with Leon Bekker pleading guilty to his contravention of various sections of the Marine Living Resources Act No 18 of 1988 (the MLRA) . Bekker was charged inter alia with “fishing for, collecting, attempting to kill, disturbing, harassing, chumming or attracting using bait or other means, keeping controlling or being in possession of a white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) or part thereof, without a permit. Bekker was sentenced to a fine of R120 000 or a total of a year in jail, wholly suspended for a period of five years from today. Marine biologist, Ryan Johnson told the court that in his expert opinion the shark probably died after having been returned to the ocean. The shark was injured and had been lying on the rocks for too long. Johnson explained to the magistrate that there are approximately 3500 white sharks left in the world and that taking even one of these animals out of the equation was a disaster for their conservation. In mitigation of his sentence Bekker, pleaded guilty so as not to further waste the time of the court and then pointed out that he had no idea he had hooked a great white shark at the time. White sharks have been protected in South African waters since 1991 no person is permitted to catch them, or even to attempt to catch them. No person is allowed to trade in, or have possession of any parts of a white shark even their teeth, without a permit. In his sentencing, Magistrate Mark van Wyngaardt said that the gravity of this crime – catching; maiming or killing white sharks was, in his opinion, on par with killing rhinos given the very low numbers of both of these species left in the world. More importantly, according to prosecutor Johan Erasmus “ if any reasonable angler foresees the possibility of catching a white shark, by putting a certain type of bait in the water in a spot where white sharks are known to swim, live or habituate, then he/she is guilty of contravening the MLRA. An angler doesn’t have to catch or land the shark- just throwing the bait is illegal. It’s a fault free crime!“ Fiona Ayerst


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