History of protection against shark attack in KZN
In 1952 seven gill nets, each 130 m long, were laid along the Durban beachfront. In the first year of operation 552 sharks were caught in these nets, but, more importantly, the desired effect was achieved and no serious shark-inflicted injuries have occurred since at Durban’s beaches.
Unfortunately the resulting safe bathing conditions did not extend to other holiday resorts on the KwaZulu-Natal coast, particularly those south of Durban, where a series of attacks between December 1957 (since known as the infamous Black December) and Easter 1958 claimed the lives of five people in 107 days. These incidents had a devastating effect on the coastal tourist industry because they led to a mass exodus of panic-stricken holidaymakers.In response to the public outcry, and fearing financial disaster, several coastal towns tried erecting physical barriers in the surf zone to enclose their swimming areas.
These unsightly structures, built from poles, wire and netting, could not stand up to the heavy wave action and were soon abandoned. Dedicated depth-charging by a South African Navy frigate is known to have killed eight sharks but probably attracted more sharks to the area to feed on dead fish
By March 1966 there were fifteen beaches with protective nets, maintained either by commercial fishermen or municipal employees. At this stage the KZNSB field staff worked in a supervisory capacity, but in 1974 the organisation began to take over the servicing and maintenance of net installations and by 1982 it was solely responsible for all shark netting in the province of Natal (now known as KwaZulu-Natal).
After 1970, the length of netting continued to increase, peaking at 45km in 1992, when there were 44 protected beaches. Between 1999 and 2004, a phase of intensive net reduction at most beaches resulted in a decline in the length of netting down to 27km, a reduction of 40%. In February 2007, drumlines replaced half of the nets at 17 of the 18 beaches along the Hibiscus Coast in an effort to reduce the entanglement of bycatch species.