Introduction to the book South Africa's Great White Shark

The Great White Shark is an animal that inspires awe and fear: it is one of the world’s foremost predators, equipped with the most formidable jaws in the animal kingdom. With attacks seemingly on the increase in the Western Cape region, as well as the increased popularity of Great White Shark tourism and cage diving, this giant of the deep is often in the news, but frequently for the wrong reasons. South Africa's Great White Shark is the definitive text for cage divers, marine biologists, tour guides, and photographers, providing in-depth coverage of Great White behaviour, ecology, conservation, ecotourism and the truth behind cage diving, chumming and shark 'attacks'.

BBC Wildlife Magazine

December 2006

Book of the Month

Review written by Mark Carwardine

Review written by Melanie Gosling and published on page 14 in the South African newspaper Cape Times on the 24th of November 2006 edition:
Sharks should sue Spielberg for Jaws image

IF there is one man in the world who ought to feel morally obliged to donate big bucks to the conservation of Great White Sharks, it is Steven Spielberg.

His 1975 movie Jaws grossed $260 million, but as Peschak and Scholl point out in this book, Jaws was a catastrophe for Great Whites. It created unprecedented shark-attack hysteria and transformed what most people regarded as some "obscure ocean dweller" into "a man- eating monster with a lust for wanton killing". In the US, Australia and South Africa, people started killing as many Great Whites as they could, and scientists realised that the number of Great Whites was dropping every year.

In response, South Africa introduced laws to protect Great Whites, and later other countries followed suit. This stopped the free-for-all hunting, but today Great Whites still face many other threats: poaching for their trophy jaws and teeth, and death in trawler nets and on the millions of hooks from long-line fishing. They are caught for their fins, which are cut off while the animals are alive, and then thrown overboard to die.

Peschak and Scholl, both marine biologists, have spent many years studying Great Whites in South Africa. Because of the public's fascination with Great Whites, both researchers say they are constantly bombarded with questions about the animals:

Why do sharks leap out of the water? Does chumming cause shark attacks? Do they bite people because they look like seals? What's the biggest shark ever seen? They acknowledge that there is little accurate information to answer these questions in popular literature, and some of the shark research is so new that it has not even been published in scientific journals. They say the public has to rely on outdated or simplistic information, often about Great Whites in other countries.

Peschak and Scholl wrote this book to fill that gap, which it does superbly. It is aimed at a wide audience, from surfers and spearfishermen to cage divers, tourists, nature guides, shark enthusiasts and, although they don't say so, I imagine school pupils would find it perfect for projects. They have built up a wealth of scientific and anecdotal information, much of which is incorporated into this book, as well as an amazing collection of shark photographs, some of which have won awards.

Scholl, who developed a method of identifying sharks by their unique fins - "finprinting" - holds the world's largest White Shark population database.

As well as covering shark evolution, ecology, biology, range, diet and reproduction, it dispels myths about and offers theories for why sharks bite people, examines the effect of shark cage diving and describes some of the recent scientific research. There are photographs of the famous shark-tagging project where a Great White, nicknamed Nicole, swam an astonishing 11 000km from Gansbaai to Australia in 99 days - the first recorded trans-ocean journey by a Great White.

It offers advice on how to avoid being bitten by a Great White, with specialist tips for surfers, kayakers, scuba divers, snorkellers and spear fishermen.

A section I found rather comforting dealt with Peschak and Scholl's observations, over several weeks, of large numbers of Great Whites swimming close inshore off a beach packed with swimmers near Gansbaai. I say "comforting" because these sharks - as many as 20 in a two-kilometre stretch of beach - cruised past the happy swimmers week after week, sometimes just 50m offshore, without showing any interest in them at all.

It will take a lot of work to undo the damage Jaws did to Great Whites. This book makes an excellent start.

Chapters:

Foreword by Dr Deon Nel, WWF Sanlam Marine Programme

Preface by Thomas P. Peschak and Michael C. Scholl
Fact File
Chapter 1. Origins and Evolution
Chapter 2. The Great, Great White
Chapter 3. Supreme Predator
Chapter 4. Great White Inshore
Chapter 5. Out of Africa
Chapter 6. Shark Watching
Chapter 7. Great White Bites
Chapter 8. Cage Diving: The Impact
Appendix A. Avoiding Great White Shark Bites;

Appendix B. Great White Shark Tourism in South Africa

Further Reading

Acknoeledgements

Index

About the Authors
Thomas Peschak

Thomas P. Peschak divides his time between the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Marine Biology Research Institute and Currents of Contrast Productions (www.currentsofcontrast.com).

He is the author and principal photographer of the critically acclaimed book Currents of Contrast: Life in Southern Africa’s Two Oceans, a regular contributor to Africa Geographic and BBC Wildlife Magazine and the official photographer for the WWF-SA Aquatic Program.

Michael C. Scholl

Michael C. Scholl is the founder of the White Shark Trust (www.WhiteSharkTrust.org) and is also associated with the University of Cape Town (UCT).

In addition to having developed the identification method of 'finprinting', he currently holds the world’s largest Great White Shark population database. He has been published in acclaimed scientific journals and has been featured by National Geographic Television and GEO Magazine.

Available at the following online shops:
Title South Africa's Great White Shark
Authors Thomas P. Peschak & Michael C. Scholl
ISBN 1770073825
Format 240mm x 170mm
Binding Paperback
Pages 96
Photographs 68
Publisher Struik / New Holland Publishers