Great White Sharks:
Great White Sharks are apex predators and are a naturally occurring species in Cape waters where they play vital roles in the health of our marine ecosystems. They predate on squid, fish, other sharks, seals and even scavenge on dead whales.
The largest Great Whites can reach up to 6.1 meters. They are present year-round in Cape Town, but utilise different habitats during the different seasons. In winter (Apr – Sep) most shark activity is concentrated around seal colonies where Cape fur seals, particularly juveniles, make up a significant part of their diet.
Whereas in summer (Oct – Mar) sharks are distributed along the coast often within close proximity to beaches where it’s suggested they prey on fish and smaller sharks, mate or give birth or simply prefer the warmer inshore waters. Great Whites are fully protected in South Africa and cannot be hunted, killed, fished or harmed and doing so could see you imprisoned for two years, fined R50 000 or both. They are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, which means they face a high risk of extinction. Attracting sharks without a permit is illegal and prohibited.
Shark Diversity in Cape Town:
Great Whites are not the only sharks in Cape waters. In fact South Africa is an incredibly diverse place with as many as 100 different kinds of sharks. Many species like small cat sharks are endemic to our region. Larger sharks found in the Cape include Bronze Whaler, Ragged Tooth and Broadnose Sevengill sharks. Mako and Blue sharks are found off Cape Point. Smaller species like the Smoothound and Soupfin sharks, which are preyed on by Great Whites, are common in the area. Many ray species, relatives of sharks, occur close to shore too. Most sharks are not dangerous to people. Species such as the bronze whalers, ragged tooth sharks and possibly basking sharks can be misidentified as white sharks.
Shark bites are rare typically random events. On the Cape Peninsula, the first fatalities were recorded at Seaforth and Simonstown, in 1900 and 1901. Since 1960 however, only 25 attacks have occurred on the Cape Peninsula. That is less then one attack per year. Of these 25 attacks on the peninsula, a high percentage have been on spear fishers. Only four of these last 25 attacks have proved to be fatal. Sharks don’t see people as their natural prey, but they may occasionally bite to investigate what you are, they may also bite because they feel threatened or in some cases they may even mistake people as their prey.
Consider the following Safety Tips:
- Consider using a Shark Spotter Beach
- Paddle in groups and stay close together
- Pay attention to shark signage on beaches
- Speak to Shark Spotters, law enforcement officials or life-guards about the area you plan to use
- Obey beach officials if told to leave the water
- Don’t swim in deep water beyond the breakers
- Don’t swim if you are bleeding
- Don’t swim near river mouths
- Don’t swim, surf or paddle at night or on your own
- Don’t swim, surf or paddle when birds, dolphins or seals are feeding
- Don’t swim, surf or paddle near trek-netting, fishing or spearfishing
- Don’t dive for rock lobster using a bait bag
For the latest scientific developments in white shark research and other findings related to the marine environment check out our