The impact of the Great White Shark attacks on Fish Hoek Beach – Interim results of Scenic South Shark Survey – Nov 2011
The shark attack on Michael Cohen on 28 September shocked the local community and has reduced the number of people swimming at this popular beach. The timing of the attack could not have been worse for those planning a “sea side” holiday to the South Peninsula and for new recruits to local water sports.
The Scenic South Community Website working closely with Mike Schilperoort, who is in charge of shark safety at the Fish Hoek Surf Lifesaving Club designed and ran a basic survey to test the perceptions of beach users about swimming at Fish Hoek as well as the impacts on the watersport and businesses community. We hoped that the answers to questions would be useful to interested and affected parties and would also provide a baseline for a more focused survey in the future.
The results of the survey are interesting. In spite of the publicity about the shark attack and the survey, a very low number of respondents – only 437 people – took the trouble to participate. This is in stark contrast to the over 1.2 Million people who watched the YouTube video of the events that took place shortly after the shark attack on Mr. Cohen.
See the summary of the stats to date.
6% of respondents indicated that they are potential holiday makers, and 8% are local business people while 70 % identified themselves as residents of the South Peninsula or Cape Town. This begs the question. Is Fish Hoek beach significant as a tourist destination or is it used primarily by locals and Cape Townians?
A significant 89% of respondents said that they are regular visitors to Fish Hoek Beach of whom 77% will continue to visit Fish Hoek Beach. Far fewer, 61% stated that they would swim, kayak or surf at Fish Hoek.
“Has the shark attack had an effect on the local community? We have seen a reduction in the number of swimmers!
“Will visitors to our beaches be down this year?.” We are sure they will be!
“Could this be put down to the world wide recession?” We are sure that it could be.
Fish Hoek Beach and False Bay are now synonymous with the Great White Shark and the perceived risks to bathers, body boarders and surfskiers does not make for carefree frolicking in the surf.
Fish Hoek Beach used to be synonymous with safe swimming and has always been a family and surf lifesaving beach of national significance. For decades, it has been the training ground for many of South Africa’s top life savers who have also became world champions. At present, the pressure on the Lifesavers and the Shark Spotters is immense. How do we educate the public about assessing the risks and about understanding the Shark Spotters service? We need to find ways to make Fish Hoek beach safer for swimming, in a way that is also environmentally friendly. And how do we market Fish Hoek so that the association with sharks is not seen as a detractor?
New Balance Fish Hoek Surf Lifesaving Club and the Scenic South Community Website is working closely with the City of Cape Town, The Shark Spotting Programme and Alison Kock of the Save our Seas Foundation to try and make this happen . A special thank-you to Mark Webb of Target Link Research for turning the questions we posed into a professional survey. Note that the survey has not closed, but will run through the holiday season so if you have not filled it in, please go to www.scenicsouth.co.za and also see further comments at http://scenicsouth.co.za//2011/10/sharks-at-fish-hoek-beach-surveyfurther-comments.
For more clarity on the issues and debate read the discussion notes of a meeting to discuss the impact of the Shark attacks at http://scenicsouth.co.za//2011/10/shark-attacks-in-fish-hoek-%e2%80%93-impact-on-tourism-and-recreation/