Social media frenzy over shark attack

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Thursday's shark attack near Kogel Bay, in Cape Town, has spurred South Africans to take to social media to vent their anger over who should take responsibility for the death of young body-boarder David Lilienfeld.

Lilienfeld was attacked by a shark (presumed to be a great white) and lost his right leg. He died as a result of his injuries, shortly after the attack.

Since the attack, the team behind the National Geographic shark documentary “Shark Men” have become the target of scathing online criticism. The Shark Men Facebook page and documentary maker Chris Fisher have been inundated with angry comments from South Africans who blame the shark attack on their use of chum to attract sharks to the area for filming.

Some of the comments on the page include:

“Bloody idiots! Go chum in American waters you murderers! Why is chumming banned in the US? So don't deny guilt, your hands are awash with David's blood.”

“It is time now for an outright ban on shark chumming in RSA. How many more water-users have to die to satisfy the greed of men like you and all the cage diving skippers, owners and crew?”

Fisher attempted to defend himself on the Shark Men Facebook page, saying: “We departed False Bay over three days ago after working there from Sunday afternoon the 15th to Monday afternoon the 16th. During our 24 hours of work (Sun afternoon to Monday afternoon) there we chummed 24kg of pilchards (sardines). Less than the daily allotment for each of three cage diving boats working daily.”

The research for which Fisher and his team were given a permit involves raising sharks out of the water, taking blood samples and measurements. The permit was reportedly issued for the False Bay area, and for the use of up to five tonnes of chum.

Go home

Fisher's comments were met with a further slew of criticism from followers: “Shark Men is a disgraceful series. I hope that you sleep well knowing that a South African family is in mourning. And please don't sprout that denialist rhetoric. Have some respect,” said one follower.

“National Geographic and their rambo presenters should be ashamed of the role their TV shows play in objectifying and commoditising our wildlife. The money would be better spent on real conservation strategies,” said another post.

“It's a disgrace. Why does someone always have to pay with their lives before the right thing is done? Pack your bags and bugger off home you are not welcome here!”

The incident was also trending on Twitter in Cape Town yesterday, with the hashtag “sharkattack”. Many used the micro-blogging platform to encourage others to post their thoughts on the Shark Men Facebook timeline.

Alan Boyd from the Department of Environmental Affairs, who issued the permit to Fisher and his crew, has also come under fire. Boyd revoked the permit shortly after the attack, saying that no more field work would proceed.

In the meantime, National Geographic has attempted to distance itself from the incident, issuing a statement saying: “We have not renewed the series, have no plans to at the moment, and are not filming new episodes at this time. Therefore, the filming mentioned is not for National Geographic Channel, or future episodes of Shark Men.”

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