What species do we work on?
Since 2004 we have conducted applied research on great white sharks and their Cape fur seal prey. More recently we have started to study other shark species, like the sevengill cowshark and also have an exciting bronze whaler shark project in the pipeline.
What do we hope to achieve?
We want to understand the role these top predators play in our ecosystems, how their distribution is influenced by environmental and biological factors, determine whether populations are increasing, decreasing or stable and identify the threats they face.
Why is this important?
Large sharks grow and reproduce slowly, and are vulnerable to exploitation. In many cases they are fished out, faster than they can reproduce. Furthermore, these sharks spend significant time in our coastal waters to feed, for safety or to give birth. Spending so much time near our coasts can have serious implications for their health and for populations because our coasts are heavily impacted by fishing, pollution, habitat and prey loss and disturbance.
What are the challenges?
One of the biggest obstacles in improving conservation and management of sharks is the lack of knowledge on many aspects of biology, ecology, behaviour and population status. e.g. if we don’t know where sharks go, we can’t identify all the threats they face. Furthermore, conserving large, predatory sharks, which are sometimes in conflict with people, is a major conservation challenge because fear can stop people from supporting their conservation. In order to maintain the balance between great white shark conservation and public safety it is imperative that we have a strong scientific foundation on white shark ecology, coupled with non-lethal mitigation methods and supported by a comprehensive education and awareness strategy.
KEY OBJECTIVES OF THE RESEARCH ARE TO
- Describe spatial and temporal movements of sharks in South Africa, with special focus in Cape Town
- Determine the influence of environmental variables on shark movement and behaviour
- Determine the influence of prey availability and distribution on shark movement and behaviour
- Define the role of apex predatory sharks in temperate coastal environments
- Identify sighting and population trends
- Identify threats to shark populations
- Actively engage with and test where possible shark safety technology and developments
- Make management and conservation recommendations