“We believe that if we can reduce the already small risk of a shark bite then we can make a meaningful contribution to white shark conservation, contribute to the community’s well-being and set a precedent in how people and sharks can co-exist.”
Shark Spotters has proven to be an effective warning system in Cape Town with hundreds of shark sightings recorded. However, Shark Spotters is not 100% effective due to human error, weather and sea conditions. Entering the ocean is done so at the individuals own risk.
WHO WE ARE:
Shark Spotters is a pioneering shark safety programme that has attracted international and local attention because of the novel way it seeks to find a solution to potential conflicts between sharks and people. Adopted by the City of Cape Town in 2004 in response to a spate of shark bite incidents and increased shark sightings, Shark Spotting is now the primary shark safety programme used in Cape Town.
Shark Spotters improves beach safety through both shark warnings and emergency assistance in the event of a shark incident. It contributes to research on shark ecology and behaviour, raises public awareness about shark-related issues, and provides employment opportunities and skills development for Shark Spotters.
Shark Spotters is a registered Non-Profit Organisation, Public Benefit Organisation and has Section 18A registration. The core management team consists of a Project Manager, Field Manager and Research Manager. Their work is overseen by a management committee from the City of Cape Town Environmental Resource Management Department and the steering committee of the Non Profit Organisation. The steering committee comprises representatives from the local communities that the Shark Spotting program serves, including the founding members of the organisation.
Shark Spotters conducts applied research focused on inshore white shark presence and behavioural ecology in Cape Town to inform public safety policy, management strategies and education and awareness. Shark Spotters drives an adaptive management approach to human-shark conflict which is responsive to conflict and proactive in using research and best practices. Key objectives of the research are to 1) describe spatial and temporal movements of sharks in Cape waters, 2) determine the influence of environmental variables on movement and behaviour, 3) determine the influence of prey availability and distribution on movement and behaviour, 4) identify population trends and 5) actively engage with and test where possible shark safety technology and developments. Shark Spotters will collate shark attack information and respond to all local incidents to collect factual and objective information. Fact-based information will be used to lead a communication strategy that aims to provide objective and informed information to the public around shark-human conflict issues.
History of Shark Spotters:
After a spate of shark bites in 2004 and an increase in shark sightings close to popular beaches, shark spotting developed out of a need driven at the local and community level. Initially shark spotting was done on an ad hoc basis in Muizenberg, started by Greg Bertish of True Blue Travel who asked individuals working as car guards at the time to keep watch from the mountain overlooking the beach and warn them through use of their cell phones of any sharks visible in the area. Greg then formalised the program and with the help of Rasta, Dave and Fiona Chudleigh raised funds from the local surf community and received sponsorship from True Blue Surf Travel, Puma SA, Reef wetsuits and the Surf Shack. Greg sourced and installed the first flagpole signal system and the siren alarm, and set up a mountain watch using binoculars, polarised sunglasses, two-way radios and a siren remote control. With his assistance this system was soon mirrored and used by the Fish Hoek lifesaving club. After 18 months with the programmes huge local and international success, the City of Cape Town and WWF formally got onboard.