Shark Spotters statement regarding Ocearch Expedition: False Bay

This project has recently received a lot of attention and some concerns have been raised about the possibility of increased risk to water users in False Bay. As a result it is appropriate for the Shark Spotting Programme to now release a formal statement in that regard to its stakeholders and beach user groups.

The Ocearch research/documentary expedition was not initiated by the City of Cape Town or the Shark Spotting Programme. The permit and approval for this initiative has been provided by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) Oceans and Coasts Branch who are mandated to coordinate research and issue research permits on marine protected species. The research component is a collaboration between local and international scientists representing 16 research institutions, while the filming component is run by Fischer productions.

The role of formal communication is through DEA and the Shark Spotting Programme believes that more open communication regards this project to the public and users of False Bay would have gone a long way in ensuring that the correct and factual information was provided in advance of the project commencing in False Bay.

When given the opportunity, the City of Cape Town and the Shark Spotters requested that permits be amended to include:

1) No chumming to take place within any inshore areas (closer than 2km from the coast) in False Bay

2) The City of Cape Town may place an observer on board one of the Project Vessels subject to a request being made 2 days in advance (or less should it be mutually agreed) for work in any area outside of the approved White Shark Cage Diving area in False Bay.

Considering these facts, the Shark Spotting Programme does however hold the following view on the activities in False Bay:

1)      The scientific value of long term satellite tracking of white sharks will add significant insight into their ecology and behaviour and will ultimately contribute to our enhanced understanding of these animals which will assist us in providing better information to enhance water user safety.  We cannot learn more about these animals without this kind of work being done.

2)      Research at this scale has never been conducted before in South African waters and the costs of such work are prohibitive. As such, funding by documentary filmmakers is necessary to finance the scientific research

3)      The view that has been circulated that 5 tonnes of chum will be used in False Bay is factually incorrect and has created significant miss-information amongst the public. The vessel will operate in multiple areas between Cape Point and Cape Agulhas for relatively short periods of time and a DEA official on board will monitor all activities. In False Bay, the research will primarily take place at Seal Island and surrounds as this is where the highest concentration of white sharks are present at this time of year.

4)      The Shark Spotting Programme has worked with Mike Meyer from DEA for many years and has the greatest respect and confidence in his integrity and knowledge.  Mike will be on board at all times and will have overall control of all fishing and tagging aspects and as a result the Shark Spotting Programme is confident that all the necessary checks and balances will be in place.

5)      Further, as one of over 30 scientists involved in this project, the Shark Spotting Research Manager Alison Kock will be on board during all False Bay work and will liaise directly with the Shark Spotter Programme field staff from the boat throughout the operation.

Finally, given that the Ocearch project will work in False Bay for a few days between 10 – 30 April, our role is to ensure that where possible all relevant checks and balances are in place which we believe we have achieved. Our spotting teams will be on the mountain and on the beaches as they are everyday and our standard safety protocols will apply.  Where necessary we will provide any updates via twitter and our website.

To view the tracks of the tagged sharks visit

To read DEA’s official response regards chumming in False Bay during the expedition visit


  1. Hey this is a fantastic article. I’m going to e mail this to my pals. I came on this while exploring on yahoo I’ll be sure to come back. thanks for sharing.

  2. Pamila Kierstead

    I’ve been tracking the sharks off the USA and is it a concern when a shark has not surfaced in more than a month?

    • The are a number of possibilities for a tag not pinging in. There are behavioural reasons, such as the shark spending its time deep and not coming to the surface, or only coming to the surface for brief periods of time, but not enough to provide an accurate location. It could be transmitter failure or damage, or bio-fouling on the tag. In the case of bio-fouling in some cases if the shark swims into deeper, colder water the bio-fouling can die off and the tag can start transmitting again. The last possibility, is that of a mortality. With regard to the two tagged sharks off the USA, the one is regularly providing transmissions, while the second one is only giving z-class transmissions, which either mean the shark is not spending enough time at the surface or there is tag damage or bio-fouling interfering with the transmissions. In many cases photo-ID and/or acoustic telemetry data can help determine what the case is in the longer term.


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