29 FEBRUARY 2012

City to consider a proposed trial installation of a shark exclusion net for Fish Hoek Beach

The South Peninsula Subcouncil (19) will shortly be considering a proposal to take the first steps to begin a trial of shark exclusion nets in the southern section of Fish Hoek beach. If the South Peninsula Subcouncil approves the proposals the City will then make an application to the National Department of Environmental Affairs for a research permit, allowing the trial to go ahead.

If the approvals application and the trial is successful, the exclusion net will offer a potential long term option for increased bather safety, at limited or no risk to the marine environment.

In considering the use of the exclusion nets the City needs to balance the impact on the local Fish Hoek community:

  • of the perception of it as an unsafe swimming area due to regular shark sightings resulting in bathers being kept out of the water;
  • the impact that this has on local businesses, especially the tourism industry;
  • the need to protect the natural environment which is a unique marine asset; and
  • the need to be aware of and respectful of the current trek net rights at Fish Hoek Beach and the importance of these rights to the livelihoods of a number of people.  As such the City will work with the rights holders to ensure minimal impact on those rights should the exclusion net proceed.

Since 2004, Fish Hoek Beach has had two fatal shark attacks as well as a third which resulted in severe injuries and the loss of a limb. As a result of the high presence of white sharks within the inshore area of this bay, recreational and social use of Fish Hoek Beach, as well as social perceptions of Fish Hoek Beach, have been negatively impacted.

In 2006, the City contracted the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board to assess the potential of deploying an exclusion net at Fish Hoek Beach as a safety measure.

“At the time, it was recommended not to deploy an exclusion net. The potential for deployment of an exclusion net as additional bather safety measure now needs to be reconsidered,” said Alderman Belinda Walker, Mayoral Committee Member for Economic, Environmental & Spatial Planning.

An exclusion net is not the same as shark nets currently used in KwaZulu-Natal.

Exclusion nets are small meshed nets designed to act as a barrier to sharks preventing them from entering an enclosed area. In the proposed trial the area that would be protected would be kept to a minimum, but large enough to provide a recreational space and training area for the life-saving club.  As such the area would be less than the size of two rugby fields and would run from just off Jaggers Walk on the south of the beach diagonally across to the Law Enforcement offices on the beach.  The small mesh of the nets prevents capture or entanglement of marine species and the net acts only as a barrier.

Shark nets on the other hand are used along the KwaZulu-Natal coastline and are essentially fishing devices known as large meshed gill nets that entangle and catch sharks, reducing the local shark population and, by fishing for sharks within the vicinity of a protected beach, reducing the risk of shark attack. They cover large geographic areas and are further out at sea than exclusion nets.  These nets are not species selective and hence also result in a range of other marine species becoming entangled.

“We will be proposing to the Subcouncil and ultimately Council that the exclusion net be deployed under a research permit, as this will provide the only realistic means of assessing the potential success of the net as a long term safety device. If it proves successful, bathers will be safer and the local economy would benefit,” said Ald Walker.

On completion of the trial, long term implementation would require prior Environmental Authorization in terms of the National Environmental Management Act.

The trial installation of an exclusion net within the confines of a research permit does not require public consultation. A public process will nonetheless be conducted for Interested and Affected Parties to raise issues for consideration in order that the City can get the best sense of the public’s needs.

The deployment of an exclusion net, both as a trial research project as well as a potentially permanent feature, will have capital and operational costs for the City. As part of the trial the City will be investigating possible funding options.

The concept of installing an exclusion net at Fish Hoek Beach is not without risk. But based on intensive research, the City believes that this course of action is possible and practical.

With the appropriate resources, training and daily management, the exclusion net would have minimal ecological impacts, would detract little from the sense of place of Fish Hoek Beach, would in relative terms be a cost effective option, and be in the public interest.

“It is likely to have significant social and economic benefits for the Fish Hoek area, and would meet the needs of the City’s perspective of implementing safety measures that meet the needs of our communities while not negatively impacting on our rich marine environment,” said Ald Walker.

If the proposal meets all of the necessary requirements the project is anticipated to be implemented on a trial basis in October 2012.

A visual of the area proposed for the exclusion net is available upon request from


Issued by: Communication Department, City of Cape Town

Media enquiries: * Alderman Belinda Walker, Mayoral Committee Member for Economic, Environmental and Spatial Planning, City of Cape Town, Tel: 021 400 1307 or Cell: 083 629 8031, E-mail:

* Alderman Felicity Purchase, Chairperson of Subcouncil 19, City of Cape Town, Tel: 021 784 2001 or Cell: 083 629 0829, E-mail:

* Gregg Oelofse, Environmental Resource Management Department, City of Cape Town, Tel: 021 487 2239 or Cell: 083 940 8143, E-mail:


  1. Good way of describing, and pleasant paragraph to obtain facts about my presentation subject matter,
    which i am going to deliver in college.

  2. Jessica Thomas

    The nets will disrupt the balance of marine
    life. When people step into the ocean they
    know they are taking a risk of encountering
    a wild animal. When human life is lost it is very
    tragic and I feel for the family’s that have lost
    loved ones. However that does not give us the
    right to harm marine life especially great white
    sharks who’s number have dramatically decreased.
    Rather you love sharks or hate sharks they play
    an important role and maintain a healthy
    balance in our ocean. The ocean is not a
    swimming pool for humans. If you choose
    to enter this wild environment it’s at your own

    • Rudi Coetzee

      Jessica you seem to make rather bold statements above, obviously without researching the application or having access to real facts. The net is a fully enclosed net (ref to websites – Hong Kong experience over a perriod of more than 15 years). The mesh sizes vary between 75 and 100mm. There is no way that it will cause any disruption to marine life. The design is not diamond shaped but rather squares. The net will cover 3,5% of the Bay area – how can it possibly damage the “balance” in the Bay. Humans live with far less Oxygen in gauteng than we down here in Cape Town. Species do adapt. There is more proof of growth in GW population than decrease along our coastline since the GW became a protected specie more than 20 years ago. The initial installation installation of the net is an expeerimental phase and should actually be seen as the practical side of an impact study.

  3. Dagny Warmerdam

    Whilst i am against shark nets for a host of reasons, i would like to comment on your response to Erol Erikkson’s posting that the tourists from the busses have no idea of what the flag system means.

    This simply highlights once more, the need for education and responsible tourism. Surely, in a country where the White Shark is becoming something of an attraction and a money making business, the tour operators could in some way both explain the flag system, and highlight how much safer our waters are if one adheres to the measures that shark spotters have put in place.

    If the city do get the go ahead for netting Fish Hoek, i hope that they do not stop the spotting program. Historically, more sharks as well as other marine life are found on the inside of the nets, often trapped in them. It would be a pity to discover Southern Rights, which come very close inshore in the Fish Hoek bay, entangled in the mesh.

    The spotting program would certainly help in seeing when an animal has swum through/around/under/into a net, as well as still providing the safety measure of someone having ‘eyes’ on the water at all times.
    As a surfer and frequent ocean user, I have certainly felt 100% safer since the spotting program has been implemented.

    • Rudi Coetzee

      Thank you for your constructive input. We agree 100%. The Boards should be positioned where they are more visible – or more Boards installed. May be in two or three international languages. We as locals would and could never get rid of the Shark Spotters. The major problem is that the concept (if one base it on when the black flag), then the system is 30% effective. This is caused by the roughness of the sea (wind), glare, clouds, rain, etc. However, they are always on duty at Fish Hoek Bay and because of their experience could sometimes pick up sharks close to the shoreline under these conditions. Therefore the system is not foolproof.
      You state that you are against netting. We are certainly against the killer Gill nets used at KZN and NSW beaches – they unfortunately have no choice because of the wave mechanics at their beaches – but we have studied the Hong Kong netting programme and 100% effective results now for many years with no effect on sea life, and therefore realise that it is the only solution for the protection of bathers at this stage.

  4. Erol Eriksson

    I would like to highlight one point. Of those three attacks, two occured when the shark present flag was flying.

    This shows that the current measures are working only that people (regular swimmers in both cases, who where familiar with the flags) are choosing to ignore them. That is their progative, but in no way an indication that the shark spotter are failing.

    • Save our Cape beaches

      What you state is technically correct. However, if you ask the people at the beach or those getting off the tourist busses at the Galley exactly what the various flags mean, they have no idea and think that the black flag means – SHARKS are present! Secondly, the Shark Spotters do a wonderfull job but conditions during the summer months is of such a nature that the black flag is waving 60 to 70% of the time? Thirdly, the concept of swimming at your own risk is a difficult one. You will for ever get someone that makes the wrong decision and this will continue giving Fish Hoek and other beaches on the False Bay coastline a bad name.

  5. Kayleigh SSSOSL

    nets should not be used. When u go into the ocean, you are stepping into the wild. You enter the wilderness at your own risk. Oceans are not a play ground or swimming pool for humans. The oceans are the sharks habitat not ours. Also, nets do not keep all sharks out and they also kill sharks, turtles, rays, dolphins, seals and many more marine life. #SaveSharks keep oceans healthy.

    • Save our Cape beaches

      This approach is rather outdated and does not solve any of problems.

      • Outdated because it “doesn’t solve a problem” or doesn’t fit a budget? Come on, wake to reality where natural resources is destroyd because it doesn’t fit a budget” !!! If budget and money is the drive, think of alternatives…Entice tourist by having a opportunity to view apex predators in their natural habitat(Gansbay is makeing a killing on this), swim next door at Long Beach and view at Vishoek.

        Let’s look the stats:

        November 2004 – 77-year-old woman taken by shark while out on one of her daily swims.

        January 2010 – Zimbabwean tourist killed by a great white.(Main cause: Blood loss)

        September 2011 – British tourist attacked by a shark and suffered severe injuries and loss of limb.

        February 2012 – Proposal of exclusion net for Fish Hoek Bay

        …..Think about it…4 people over a 8 year period… wow, I can only hope for similar stats on car accidents and guess what, we’re not closing down roads are we??
        Not safe.. let me think about this…uhmm,…duhhh!!

        Context is required when analysing anything based on nature and economics and if any attention is given to lessons learned, economics might win short term ,but what exactly is the price we pay…?? THINK about it!!

        • Rudi Coetzee

          Another outburst by a person that do not understand progress or problem solving? No, in short, we love to swim every morning without breaking our arms in shallow waist deep water and why should we swim at Long Beach anyway if we can walk to our own beach? I can’t see that 3% of the Bay for bathers will affect you and your mates in the sea. Tell us more about the damage to natural resources? I suggest you study the proposal and research it on the internet. Maybe you see the light one day…? Otherwise lets go for a BIG tiddle pool like Monwabisi and really spoil it?

    • Save our Cape Beaches

      Also, these are not Gill netting as used at the Natal shores and have a much smaller meshing – no entanglement or getting stuck of any sea life such as sharks, dolphins, etc.

  6. Fred Kleynhans

    I agree with the proposal and trial.

  7. Hi
    Is there more information about the type of net that is going to be used?
    Some data and/or photos.

    • Save our Cape Beaches

      Yes, various articles, concept and design drawings are available on the internet. Check “Hong Kong full enclosure shark nets” on the Internet. Basically the net is designed for spring tide, floats on the water surface and is well anchored on the sea bed. Normally the meshing is 35mm square for the first 2m and 100mm square mesh there after (depth). It is quite suitable where spilling type waves are the norm – such as Fish Hoek (shallow beach gradient). The strength is much stronger (2300kNewton) than the Gill netting used at our Natal shores which have diamond meshing of 510mm.

  8. Maureen Wooldridge

    I think that this is something that is definitely worth a try.


  1. Shark Nets vs Exculsion Nets | Shark Spotters - [...] City of Cape Town issued a press release of a proposal to trial an exclusion net in Fish Hoek…

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