ONE OF MY DREAMS COME TRUE!
It was in 1997 that I first had a meeting with the then Hon. Minister Dr. Frances Zammit Dimech M.P. and asked him to pass laws to protect some shark species in Malta. He promised me that there will be further discussions.
A year later, I was chosen as Shark Program Coordinator for MARINE LIFE CARE GROUP (Malta).
On 13th. November 1999, after many months of meetings, discussions and political lobbying, THE GREAT WHITE SHARK (Carcharodon carcharias) and THE BASKING SHARK (Cetorhinus maximus) along with THE DEVIL RAY (Mobula mobular), got listed as PROTECTED species here in MALTA. This made this Island the FIRST in all of EUROPE to protect the GREAT WHITE SHARK. These 3 species which are listed as endangered, could not be fished or hunted any longer.
Here is part of the Legal Notice that was issued at the time. I could not share this news with any one before that date as any objections would have meant a delay or total cancellation of the laws These were the longest two months of my life!!
This is only the first step in shark protection and now discussions must continue so as to make guidelines and measures that protect both Sharks and Humans from any possible danger. But the biggest hurdle has been overcome.
Let this be a lesson to all….
A FEW PEOPLE CAN MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE
On my own personal behalf, and that of M.L.C.G. (Malta),
I would like to thank:
The Hon. Minister Dr. Frances Zammit Dimech M.P.
and his Department of Environment.
Mr. Rodney Fox
who has been my lifelong inspiration
All those who showed their support in this mission.
(forgive me for not mentioning any names, but I do not
wish to leave anybody out.)
You all have my eternal gratitude and I will never forget this.
ALEX “The Sharkman” BUTTIGIEG
In 1999, the first 2 shark species became protected under Maltese law.
Since then, we have a total of 15 species:
Great White Shark
Shortfin Mako Shark
Small Tooth Sandtiger Shark
Angular Rough Shark
Saw-backed Angel Shark
Smooth back Angel Shark
Bigeye Thresher Shark
are totally PROTECTED IN MALTA
* although there are no official records of these two species from Malta, they are still protected to avoid species misidentification
Optical Illusion or beauty of Nature?
In July 2004, I noticed this rock formation at Comino. What does it look like? Compare these two photos and you will see.
Since than, this has now become
MALTA'S FAMOUS GREAT WHITE SHARK
The story of the Malta Great White has had many doubts about the true length of the shark. Here are the facts.
On 17 April 1987, Alfred Cutajar finds a Great White Shark on one of the set lines belonging to Vince D’amato. He tries to tow it in to “Blue Grotto”, but when he got there, it was found out that the crane could not get close to the water to lift up the shark so it was towed again all the way to the village of “Marsaxlokk”
Word spread around like wild fire and John Abela enters the picture. He immediately offers to buy the Jaws from Alfred, and to make reports internationally about the catch.
The shark was taken away and on the next morning, the local Maltese paper “In-Nazzjon Taghna” published a report of the catch and an estimate of 18 ft (5.4m) for the shark.
In the meantime John Abela claimed that he had measured the Shark at 23ft 5in (7.13m) !! He also published a whole set of photos, but none of which showed the actual full length of the shark. These measurements were considered doubtful by many researchers.
In 1998 a team from BBC, came to Malta and did a search on the issue. Some unpublished photos were discovered at the offices of the “In-Nazzjon Taghna”, the paper that had first reported the catch, along with the First photo. The BBC investigators then sent these photos for tests and later, Ian Fergusson (1998) stated that the results indicated an estimate of approx. 18ft. (5.4m)
BBC contacted Abela with these findings and after a lot of arguing with them, he then admitted that he might have taken wrong measurements.
My own personal opinion……
I personally arrived on the scene as the shark was being hoisted out of the water in Marsaxlokk, but could only get to within 20 metres of the shark. From that distance, I estimated the shark to be less then 20 ft. (6m)
At that stage I did not know any of the people involved, but later I managed to trace both Alfred Cutajar and John Abela. I have spoken with them on many occasions, especially Alfred. I have also seen the Jaws and the Pectoral fins of this shark, and in my personal opinion, I still believe that it was no bigger 20ft. (6m)
I guess we will never ever know who is right.
Here are the “Missing” Photos.