Cape Town Shark Project M-Sea Programme

AfriOceans was launched with the Maxine, Science, Education and Awareness Programme (M-Sea). Herewith a history of this amazing programme, which still continues today – we are proud to be the reason that the Two Oceans Aquarium no longer keeps sharks in captivity their whole life but ‘recycles’ them i.e. releases them after a period of time and replaces them with new sharks.

Programme Overview

The Maxine, Science, Education and Awareness Programme (M-Sea) was an AOCA initiative, in collaboration with the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town, South Africa. It was a high profile shark conservation programme, which reached millions of people worldwide. It began in 2004 with the satellite tagging and releasing of Maxine, the famous raggedtooth shark, and continues with the release of sharks from the Two Oceans Aquarium every few years.

The programme began when AOCA’s founding member, Lesley Rochat, met Maxine when filming in the shark exhibit at the aquarium while investigating the worldwide plight of sharks for an article she was writing. When Lesley learnt about Maxine’s extraordinary life that encapsulates this plight in many ways, she influenced the aquarium to release Maxine back into the ocean. Lesley embraced the idea of telling Maxine’s story to the world – see video below. She therefore made Maxine the icon for the M-Sea Programme, which she designed. As an ambassador for sharks, Maxine drew attention to the problems of overfishing, environmental degradation and the challenges of learning to use the ocean’s living resources in ways that are sustainable.

This extensive Programme ran over 4 years and consisted of the following:

  • An extensive 4 year research project involving the satellite tagging and releasing of captive sharks as well as the catching and tagging of wild sharks to compare their movements along the South African coastline.
  • A short promotional video to raise awareness, A Shark’s Legacy
  • A one-documentary for international release, Maxine’s Journey
  • A 3-part TV episode for national television
  • Rethink the shark awareness campaign – 3 x TV ads
  • Rethink the shark awareness campaign – 3 x posters
  • Rethink the Predator awareness campaign displayed at the Two Oceans Aquarium and other international aquariums
  • Rethink the shark short awareness film
  • A compelling documentary called Sharks in Deep Trouble
  • Be Shark Wise public signage designed and installed at all public beaches with high shark activity in Cape Town
  • A children’s educational and interactive display at Two Oceans Aquarium and the London Aquarium
  • A educational book, Teachers’ Handbook on Shark
  • Teacher workshops to use educational materials
  • Outreach educational lessons for learners
  • Childrens’ books, ABC of the Sea; Feebee the Turtle; and Ocean Activities
  • Numerous presentations to schools and companies, and private and corporate events.
  • The design and establishment of a public Shark Centre in Kalk Bay, South Africa

Maxine’s Remarkable True Life Story

Maxine, the raggedtooth shark is a legend whose extraordinary story lives on to this day: On the 4th of August 1995 Maxine, a large spotted ragged tooth shark, was caught in the shark nets at Amanzimtoti in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. Fortunately for her during a net maintenance routine check she was found alive, promptly tagged and released by members of the KZN Sharks Board. Badly wounded by the nets that had cut deeply into her flesh during her struggle to free herself, but lucky to be alive, she continued along her breeding migratory path.

Ninety-one days later and 1369 kilometers further down the coast she arrived at Die Plaat in Struisbaai where a Tag and Release Tournament was taking place. What appeared to be a tasty morsel was in fact a large baited hook and she was caught. After a long tug of war she was exhausted and gave up the struggle. She was pulled out of the ocean by Border angler Andre Small, weighing a handsome 89kg. It seemed that her luck had come to an abrupt end. But again she was fortunate. The anglers had been informed by Dr Pat Garratt, director of the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town, that they were looking for a ragged tooth shark her size for their main exhibit. And so a very tired and stressed Maxine was transported on the back of a van to the only protected pool in the vicinity, a public pool at Cape Agulhas, nearly 20 kilometers away where the aquarium staff would collect her. Twenty minutes after being caught she was carefully placed in the pool. By then she was close to death. Again she was saved, this time by the team manager named Mackie, who being determined to revive Maxine, jumped into the pool with her. He swam around and around with her for over an hour and until she was strong enough to swim alone again. Eleven hours later the aquarium staff arrived to collect her. It was Maxine’s first moment in the limelight as bright floodlights lit the sight and curious residents gathered to witness her being carefully transferred into a holding tank by the aquarium staff. The transport back to the aquarium was successful and she was introduced to the largest display there. Given that Mackie had saved her life and that she was mistaken for a male shark, she was called Max, later changed to Maxine.

Once in the exhibit, and for three months, it appeared that Maxine was sulking and she refused to eat even the tastiest morsel offered to her. It was only when a much-prized shoal of longfin tuna were placed in the tank with her that she proceeded to feed, making a feast of them over the weeks that followed. Maxine is indeed lucky to be alive since only 40% of ragged tooth sharks survive the shark nets and fishermen kill many more annually.

Nine years later only a faint scar remained behind her gills as a reminder of her entanglement with the shark nets. Safe in her new home, she had grown into a magnificent animal of around three metres that patrolled the exhibit, enthralling visitors from around the world. In her own right Maxine was a minor public figure. She was a wonderful ambassador for her species and was returned to her world to brave its elements once more when she was released back into the ocean on 18 March 2004.

The Scienctific Research Programme

This scientific research programme was designed by our founder, Lesley Rochat, and was the first of its kind in South Africa. Though Maxine was the first shark to be released from the Two Oceans Aquarium, other large raggedtooth sharks were also released.

This scientific research project aimed to assist shark conservation in general and ragged tooth shark conservation in particular. Its main objective was to conduct important scientific research into both the release of captured sharks back into the wild as well as behaviour and movements of wild sharks. This was achieved by tagging the sharks with ultrasonic and satellite tracking devices.

M-Sea Scientific Research Project Reports

Facts About Our Released Sharks


  • Maxine was the first shark to be released on the 18 March 2004 on Saxon Reef.
  • She is a ragged tooth shark with an extraordinary true-life story. She escaped death twice before arriving at the Two Oceans Aquarium in 1995 where she stayed for nine years.
  • Maxine weighed nearly 200kg, she was almost 3m long, and around 15 years old when she was released.
  • She has a faint scar right around her gills, right over her body from her net ordeal.
  • Maxine was tagged with 2 pop up archival transmitting satellite tags (PAT), a spaghetti tag and an ultrasonic tag.
  • The one satellite tag released 298 kilometers east of her release point near Plettenberg Bay in South Africa, and the other 570 kilometers east of her release point. She still wears an ultrasonic tag, which will give us further information should she pass a base station, and a spaghetti tag for long-term identification.


  • Val was the second shark to be released on the 4 April 2005 on Saxon Reef, close to Arniston in South Africa.
  • She was caught in Arniston for the Two Oceans Aquarium in 1998.
  • She was named Val because of the large amount of Valium that it took to sedate her in order to transport her back to the aquarium.
  • Val has a ‘beauty spot’ on her left cheek.
  • Val weighed around 215kg and was around 3m long when released.
  • Val was tagged with a pop up archival transmitting satellite tag (PAT), a spaghetti tag for long-term identification and an ultrasonic tag, which can be picked up by base stations positioned on the ocean floor if she passes within 500m.
  • Her PAT tag released in August 2005 but was damaged and failed to transmit expected data.
  • Despite failure of her satellite tag the team knew she was doing well as her ultrasonic tag was picked up via a base station which she past a few weeks after her release, about 200 km from the release point. She was successfully travelling in the direction of her migration.


  • Dee was the third shark to be released on the 15 March 2006 on Saxon Reef, close to Arneston in South Africa.
  • She was estimated to be 15 years of age and identifiable by a ‘beauty spot’ on her right side, just in from of her pelvic fin. Dee was captured by Bayworld staff in Port Elizabeth on 4 March 1992. She weighed 6.4kg and measured about 1metre.
  • Dee was donated to Two Oceans Aquarium in October 1995. She weighed 73kg and was over 2metres in length.
  • Dee weighed 196kg and was 2.8m in length prior to her release.
  • She was tagged with one PAT satellite tag, an ultrasonic tag and a spaghetti tag.
  • Although Dee was only a pup when she was caught and had never done the migration, her instinct never failed her and 118 days after her release her satellite tag successfully surfaced on 11 July, 700km from her release point.

In addition to the above released sharks, we have also released Elle in 2007.