People are reminded that white sharks are present in our waters all year round and that they should be aware of the small possibility of encountering one of these animals at anytime and should always remain vigilant when using the ocean. However the City of Cape Town would once again like to remind all beach and ocean users that we are again approaching the time of year when we expect to see a seasonal increase in the presence of white sharks in the in-shore area. This seasonal change is not unique to False Bay or recent in its occurrence: similar behaviour is recorded in Gansbaai, Mossel Bay and even California.

Shark sightings recorded by the shark spotters has consistently shown a seasonal peak in shark sightings during the period from August – March, peaking in mid-summer. Typically shark sightings start in late August. However, shark spotters and water users have recorded early sightings in the last two weeks in Muizenberg, St. James and Clovelly. White shark research trips over the weekend recorded a significant drop in shark activity at Seal Island which may be indicative of an early move of sharks away from the island to the in-shore areas. The City is therefore appealing to all beach and ocean users to be aware of these recent sightings and the expected increase in shark presence in-shore.


In total shark spotters have documented 530 shark sightings at beaches around Cape Town since the programme started. Each shark sighting is recorded and entered into a dedicated scientific database. Information collected includes the location and time of the sighting and duration and swimming pattern of the shark. Alison Kock from the Save Our Seas Shark Centre and the research director for the Shark Spotters said, “This information is important because it can be used to identify trends in shark presence and behaviour at popular beaches which can offer new information that can be used to increase safety for water users through minimizing interactions between sharks and people”.


Analysis of the shark spotter’s data from the two beaches with the highest number of shark sightings, namely Muizenberg and Fish Hoek, reveals that most (over 65 % of sightings) sharks are observed swimming behind the breakers traveling in a directional pattern from one side of the beach to another, parallel to the shore. Kock says “This suggests that in most cases sharks are simply swimming past these beaches on their way to another location and we recommend that water users in areas of high shark activity limit the amount of time they spend behind the breakers far away from shore”. The data has also shown that in the event of a whale stranding shark sightings increase significantly at adjacent beaches and shark sightings may persist for up to a week after the stranding. Therefore it’s highly recommended that water users do not swim, surf or kayak in areas where there has been a recent whale stranding.

Kayakers and surfskiiers are specifically asked to be cautious of the area between Sunnycove and Glencairn Beach while surfers and swimmers are asked to be especially vigilant in the areas between Sunrise Beach and Strandfontein and again in the Macassar Beach area.


People are encouraged to use areas where shark spotters are on duty and to take the time to speak to the shark spotters on the day they visit the beach to find out about recent sightings and activity as well as the current conditions which determine the effectiveness for shark spotting. People are also please requested to take the time to read the shark spotting signs to inform themselves of the four flag warning system used as well as be aware of the use of a siren to close the beach.

Regular shark sightings have become part of the beach experience for many local swimmers and surfers in Cape Town. “This change in attitude from one of fear and panic just a few years back to an attitude adopted by many of acceptance and understanding has been brought about through a combination of research, education and awareness”, says Sarah Titley, project manager of Shark Spotters. Shark spotters are at the frontline of educating the public on shark issues due to their daily interaction with waters users. Titley says “it is important that the spotters are knowledgeable and kept current on shark and ocean related issues”. Over the winter period shark spotters attended a training workshop held at the Save Our Seas Shark Centre in Kalk Bay and received a training manual specially designed for them by Wally Petersen of KEAG. This manual contains information on white shark behaviour and ecology, other shark species found in cape waters and shark bites. This year all the spotters were also given a great opportunity by Africa Shark Eco-Charters to go cage diving and see the sharks from up close.

The shark spotters rely on the support of the Cape Town community. This year a number of sponsors have aided the programme through financial and logistical assistance. William Simpson Tokai sponsored a brand new Nissan NP 200 bakkie, O’Neil sponsored new clothing and provided financial assistance, new binoculars and training were provided by Mphoto and Wavescapes Film Festival provided financial assistance through the Wavescapes auction of surfboards decorated by artists. Steve Pike, a surfer himself said, “The shark spotters are a vital part of our life, and through Wavescapes, we are happy to spread the word to other surfers about this crucial role”. The Shark Spotting team would like to say a huge thank-you to all their supporters. They would also like to thank all the shark spotters for their dedication and perseverance throughout the year.

Shark Spotting Programmes are operational at the following areas:

Summer:
Muizenberg corner: 7 days a week from 8 am to 7 pm
St James: 7 days a week from 8 am to 7 pm
Fish Hoek: 7 days a week from 8 am to 6:45 pm
Noordhoek (The Hoek): 7 days a week from 8 am to 7 pm
Clovelly: Weekends, public & school holidays 8 am to 4 pm
Glencairn: Weekends, public & school holidays 8 am to 7 pm

Winter:
Muizenberg corner: 7 days a week from 8 am to 6 pm
St James: 7 days a week from 8 am to 6 pm
Fish Hoek: 7 days a week from 8 am to 6 pm
Noordhoek (The Hoek): 7 days a week from 8 am to 6 pm

Over the summer holidays Shark Spotting will also be present at Mnandi, Blue Waters, Monwabisi and Strandfontein.

Background information:

The Shark Spotting Programme in Cape Town is a unique project that has attracted both international and local attention because of the novel way it seeks to find a solution to potential conflicts between sharks and people. The program recognizes the importance of implementing environmentally friendly solutions to potential wildlife conflicts. Minimizing contact between sharks and water users is fundamental in preventing erosion of social confidence in the coastline as a safe recreational asset and is critical to the long-term conservation of white sharks in the waters of Cape Town.

Kommetjie Environmental Awareness group (KEAG) manages the programme on behalf of the Non-profit organization. The programme is actively engaged in research on white shark movement patterns, residency and behaviour in False Bay in partnership with the Save Our Seas Shark Centre.

White sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) have been protected in South Africa since 1991 and listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List and on Appendix II of the CITES convention.

Scientific evidence has shown that white sharks are present in Cape waters all year round and people should be aware of the small possibility of encountering one of these animals at anytime and should always remain vigilant when using the ocean.


Shark safety tips

People are encouraged to use areas where shark spotters are on duty and to take the time to speak to the shark spotters on the day they visit the beach to find out about recent sightings and activity as well as the current conditions which determine the effectiveness for shark spotting. People are also please requested to take the time to read the shark spotting signs to inform themselves of the four flag warning system used as well as be aware of the use of a siren to close the beach.

People are reminded that no safety measure is 100 % effective and that although the Shark Spotting programme has been successful, it itself is not 100% effective and remains vulnerable to human error, weather conditions and water quality issues. The following tips can help reduce the risk of attack even further:

• Do not swim, surf or surfski when birds, dolphins or seals are feeding nearby
• Do not swim, surf or surfski near where trek-netting, fishing or spear fishing is taking place.
• Do not swim in deep water beyond the breakers
• Do not swim if you are bleeding
• Do not swim near river mouths
• Do not swim, surf or surfski at night
• Do not swim, surf or surfski if there has been a cetacean stranding nearby
• If a shark has recently been sighted in an area where no shark spotters are present, consider using another beach for the day
• First time visitors to beach areas should ask the local law enforcement official, life guards or locals about the area
• Obey beach officials if told to leave the water
• For those people kayaking or surfskiing far out to the sea, consider paddling in groups and staying close together (in a diamond shape)
• Consider using a personal shark shield when you go surfing or kayaking
• Pay attention to any shark signage on beaches

For more information on the latest shark sightings and research visit:
www.sharkspotters.org.za and www.saveourseas.com

The public are encouraged to report any sightings of White Sharks to the Shark Spotting Programme through their website.

Contacts:

Alison Kock
Director of Research: Shark Spotting Programme
Marine Biologist: Save Our Seas Shark Centre
072 661 9516
Alison@saveourseas.com

Sakhile Tsotsobe
City of Cape Town: Coastal Coordinator
0741850123

3 comments

  1. [url=http://www.facebook.com/pages/weathercom/298713874092l]www.weather.com[/url]

  2. Great to have sunglasses- but please update your site- there were @ – i repeat TWO sharks at muizies within 1 hour yesterday FRIDAY – why is this NOT ON YOUR SITE?

    this blog and
    sharkspotters.org.za

    is a complete waste of time for those wanting daily updates.

    eg – I am a surfer and want to go surfing today… I see that the last sighting was ages ago according to this site and the other…. but this is WRONG info. what about yesterday. Im wondering how many days it will take for this info to be posted.

  3. DEAR SURFERS- THIS SITE IS OUT OF DATE. IE IF YOU THOUGHT THE LAST GREAT WHITE WAS SPOTTED TWO MONTHS AGO – YOU AND THIS SITE ARE WRONG! WHY WERE WE CHASED OUT THE WATER AT MUIZEMBERG ON SUNDAY 6th (2 DAYS AGO) BY SHARK SIRENS AND A WARNING OF A GREAT WHITE SIGHTED.

    ALSO 2 WEEKS PRIOR TO THIS ANOTHER GREAT WHITE WAS SPOTTED!!!

    FOLKS – IF YOU ARE GOING TO DO SOMETHING LIKE INFORMING SURFERS OF DANGERS – THEN DO IT PROPERLY. UPDATE THIS SITE.

    WHY DO WE AS SURFERS NOT HAVE ACCESS TO THE MONITORING DEVICES ON SHARKS – SO WE CAN SEE FOR OURSELVES WHERE THEY ARE LURKING AND STAY OUT OF THEIR WAY.

    I THINK WE MUST MAKE A PETITION AND JOIN FORCES TO GET HIS DATA MADE AVAILABLE TO SURFERS ETC.

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