Is China behind disappearance of sharks, whales in Cape Town?

China is well known as a major recipient of poached African wild animals and their body parts. Less conspicuous is its activity in international waters. In 2010, a Chinese official in the coastal city of Ningbo told me that 500 vessels from that city alone were fishing in coastal waters close to Argentina – and that many more were similarly deployed elsewhere in the world, just out of territorial reach. Other Chinese cities had similar flotillas, he said. A Chinese fishing ship was sunk by an Argentine coast guard in 2017. Ningbo, with a population of 9m, is one of China’s smaller cities, so I couldn’t help wondering just how many thousands of Chinese fishing vessels there were out there rapidly depleting the ocean in far-flung places. In 2013, the government-controlled China Daily newspaper revealed that the country had stepped up krill fishing in the Antarctic. Krill, processed into food and medicine, is a protein staple for penguins, squid, whales and other marine life. In 2018, the last Great Whites were spotted in False Bay. This year, only a few whales have been seen in Western Cape waters. For now, South African scientists are pointing their collective finger at climate change to explain the mystery of the missing sharks and whales. – Jackie Cameron

Abandoned by great white sharks, Cape Town is now short of whales, too

By Antony Sguazzin

(Bloomberg) – A survey of the population of southern right whales off the coast of Cape Town has shown the second-lowest incidence of the aquatic mammals in 24 years and scientists in South Africa are linking the scarcity to climate change.

The release of the findings of the survey, which was undertaken by the Whale Unit of the University of Pretoria’s Mammal Research Institute, comes as the city’s tourism industry is already puzzled by the sudden departure of great white sharks from False Bay, which lies off the east of the city. None of the sharks have been seen this year.

Shark dives and whale watching are popular tourist activities in the region around Cape Town.

The whale survey, which was conducted by helicopter, found 200 of the whales in a stretch of False Bay, down from over 1,000 last year, the university said in a statement. Still, in 2016 only 119 were seen. The changes may be related to climate conditions in the Southern Ocean, which lies off the Antarctic.

“We believe the whales are not finding enough food, due to changes in the climate conditions of the Southern Ocean, possibly related to climate change,” the unit said. “Right whales eat krill and copepods and with not enough food they cannot store enough energy to complete the costly migration and reproduction. This has implications for population recovery.”Southern right whales can grow to 16 metres (52 feet) and weigh 60 metric tons.

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