South Africa's three-week lockdown in response to the coronavirus pandemic has been bad news for bathers looking to enjoy the last weeks of summer.

This weekend, residents of South African cities were told that all but "essential movement" was banned by state and police. Police Minister Bheki Cele has told South Africans to remain sober and that frivolous movements, such as jogging or dog walking, were prohibited.

That includes going to the beach.

However, there are one group of finned beach-goers who are being allowed special dispensation to return. During the 21-day lockdown shark nets are being pulled along a stretch of South African coast, on the Indian Ocean.

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According to the KwaZulu-Natal Shark Board who manage the shark nets and Bather Protection in the region, gill nets and drum lines will be removed to allow marine animals to move freely. This means not only sharks, but dolphins and turtles will be returning to waters abandoned by bathers.

As well as non-lethal drum lines South Africa still uses gill nets, which catch and kill animals caught in them.

According to Shark Attack – a South African conservation fund for sharks and rays – in 2017, 18 turtles 26 dolphins and four whales were among the collateral species killed in nets off South Africa's shores.

NEWS: Shark nets along South Africa's coastline will be lifted during the 21 day lockdown. Over the next two days, the...

Posted by Shark Attack on Wednesday, 25 March 2020

The Shark Board says it has since been working to replace gill nets with non-lethal drum lines to reduce bycatch. By pulling all bathing defences during the state lockdown, it is hoped that marine life will benefit from uninterrupted access to the coastline.

"This approach is unique to KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, whereas the rest of our country have figured out alternative ways of managing 'us being in the ocean with sharks' without harming them. It is their home after all."


On the Western Cape the feared great white shark population has taken a dive, and no one knows why.

Conservationists have come up with a series of non-lethal shark attack preventions such as a Shark Spotters programme to help swimmer and sharks share coasts and, as far as possible, live and let live.

For the next three weeks, at least South Africans have left the water and the beaches are the sharks' alone to enjoy.

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Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website