We aim to conserve the abundance and diversity of shark species and marine life in general within the Aliwal Shoal of South Africa. This mission is achieved via targeted conservation campaigns conducted by the research unit and coordinated with local stakeholders and government managers. 

Saving our Sharks

Director of Research, Jessica Escobar Ph.D. (c) campaigns for shark conservation by exposing the impact of bather protection nets on the sharks of kwaZulu Natal 


paddle out 12

Paddle Out For Sharks

Paddle out for sharks is an annual South African community protest against the shark nets and the killing sharks.

Sankt-Petersburg, Russia, April 12, 2018: Twitter application icon on Apple iPhone X smartphone screen close-up. Twitter app icon. Social media icon. Social network

Shark Ambassadors

Our Shark Ambassadors are the unit’s tribe of activists who utilise social media and other media avenues to spread conservation messages about sharks


Beach Cleanup

Ensuring our local beaches stay clean helps mitigate the impact of plastics and pollutants on the marine environment

esturine clearing

Invasive Clearings

We lend our support to the health of marine estuaries and shark nurseries through the clearing of invasive plants and weeds


Sustainable Seafoods

SASSI Sustainable seafoods is a WWF initiative to ensure that South African’s purchase and buy sustainably harvested seafoods.


Shark Talks

Regular community scientific and conservation talks are aimed at raising local awareness and changing perceptions

Aliwal Shoal

Where we do our work

The Aliwal Shoal Marine Protected Area represents a 126km² protected area along South Africa’s Kwa-Zulu Natal Coast. The reserve, proclaimed in 1991, represents a hotbed of shark diversity and abundance, with over 12 species either residing or visiting the shoal annually. This critical ecosystem is helping to maintain the health and abundance of many of the coastal shark species in South Africa. 

The Oceans remain insufficiently protected


CITES 2013 Offers Protection for Shark and Manta Species

From Sunday 14 September, international trade in specimens of five shark species and all manta ray species, including their meat, [...]

20 New Marine Protected Areas Proclaimed in South Africa

A Marine Protected Area (MPA) is an area of coastline or ocean that is specially protected for the benefit of [...]

Why save sharks?

Shark are being fished out

Due to overexploitation and lack of proper management, many shark species are under considerable risk of unrecoverable decline with some species having declined to near extinction in recent years.  According to reports, sharks are being killed at an alarming rate of up to 273 million worldwide per year.  Some experts predict that if the killing continues at the current rate many species will be lost forever with potentially devastating implications for our ocean ecosystems.

Killing sharks effects entire ecosystem

In a study off the east coast of the United States, 11 species of sharks were virtually eliminated from their range. Of the 14 species of marine life that those sharks used to eat, the populations of 12 exploded and caused great damage to the ecosystem. For example, the cow nose ray population was no longer kept under control by sharks and so grew out of control. As a result, the rays destroyed the population of bay scallops, their favoured food. The scallop fishery, which had been thriving, sustainably, for over 100 years, was virtually wiped out, with scallop catch dropping to only 13% of its high point. In addition, the removal of the scallops likely had an effect on water quality as they were no longer there to perform their function of filtering and cleaning the water.

Shark meat toxic to humans

Heavy metals and other environmental toxins accumulate in plant and animal tissues through the well-documented process of bioaccumulation. Sharks are prone to bioaccumulation through diet (biomagnification) as they incorporate metals very efficiently and eliminate them slowly. Eating shark meat exposes you to these potentially dangerous toxins, in particular, high levels of the methyl mercury. While a certain amount of mercury in the environment is natural, growing worldwide pollution of our oceans is increasing the risk of high mercury levels in the fish we eat, particularly fish at the top of the food chain like sharks. Consuming sharks will increase the level of mercury you ingest which will in turn increase your risk of neurological disordersautisminfertility,Coronary heart disease or even death.

Shark health reflects ecosystem health

The loss of sharks from certain areas may be an indicator of an ecosystem out of balance and in trouble. Provided that sharks have not been fished out of certain areas it is reasonable to assume that their disappearance would be a result of the destruction of a suitable habitat. The fact that shark species are so diverse and inhabit every ocean on the planet makes them key players essential to the ocean environment. Yet despite their importance in the marine food-chain they remain a low conservation priority. For all their evolutionary success and apparent menace, sharks are incredibly fragile, unable to withstand the increased pressures forced on them by the voracious world fishing industries. This is partly due to the fact that sharks are slow growing animals that mature late, live long, and have a low reproduction rate.

Sharks are worth more alive than dead

While a huge demand for shark fins in Asia results in the slaughter of tens of millions of sharks annually, a study found that sharks are worth far more alive than dead. In Palau, where more than half of tourists are drawn by diving excursions, each reef shark brings in about $179,000 in tourism revenue annually, or about $1.9 million during its lifetime. By comparison, a single shark’s fin, sold for shark fin soup, fetches only about $108.

Sharks mitigate prey ecosystem impact

Sharks regulate the behaviour of prey species, and prevent them from over-grazing vital habitats.  Some shark researchers believe that the intimidation factor caused by sharks may actually have more of an impact on the ecosystem than what sharks actually eat.  For example, scientists in Hawaii found that tiger sharks had a positive impact on the health of sea grass beds.  Turtles, which are the tiger sharks’ prey, graze on sea grass.  In the absence of tiger sharks, the turtles spent all of their time grazing on the best quality, most nutritious sea grass, and these habitats were soon destroyed.  When tiger sharks are in the area, however, turtles graze over a broader area and do not over-graze one region.

Sharks keep ocean healthy & productive

Sharks have evolved in a tight inter-dependency with their ecosystem. They tend to eat very efficiently, going after the old, sick, or slower fish in a population, keeping that population healthy. Sharks groom many populations of marine life to the right size so that those prey species don’t cause harm to the ecosystem by becoming too populous.  The ocean ecosystem is made up of very intricate food webs.  For the most part, sharks are at the top of these webs and are considered by scientists to be “keystone” species, meaning that removing them may cause the whole structure to collapse.  For this reason, the prospect of a food chain minus its apex predators may mean the end of the line for many more species. Scientific studies demonstrate that depletion of sharks results in the loss of commercially important fish and shellfish species down the food chain, including key fisheries such as tuna and other important fish species that maintain the health of coral reefs.

How you can save sharks


Ensure your local fish and chip shop is not serving shark disguised as fish (e.g. flake)


Eat and purchase only sustainably sourced seafood. Look for the MSC certification


Boycott restaurants that serve shark and let the manager know why.


Avoid buying items or products that contain ‘Squaline’. This is shark liver oil


Support Shark ecotourism and go shark diving. Make sharks a LIVING asset


Petition government on local shark issues. Be the voice for sharks


Donate and Volunteer with Shark Conservation Organizations


Stop the ratings. Boycott ‘shark attack’ style documentaries that create fear

Is your dream to work with sharks?

Can our shark development program help achieve this dream.


The Shark Research Unit is a subsidiary of Blue Wilderness. Our core purpose is to conduct original shark research, conservation and education programs at Aliwal Shoal, South Africa.  We achieve these goals through collaborating with affiliated scientists and postgraduate students. 



  • 34 Egerton Road
  • Freeland Park
  • Scottburgh 4180
  • South Africa





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