As spring and the start of the bathing season approaches, the City of Cape Town would like to remind all beach and ocean users that we are 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 have consistently shown a seasonal peak during the period from August to 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, indicative of the seasonal 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 the in-shore area over the summer months.
Analysis of the shark spotters’ 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.
Alison Kock of Save our Seas Foundation 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. Where there has been a whale stranding the City will close relevant beaches and the community is asked to understand this precautionary approach.
Kayakers and surfskiiers are specifically asked to be cautious of the area between Sunnycove and Glencairn Beach and swimmers are urged not to use the water off Jaegers Walk in Fish Hoek as this is considered a high risk area. The City has erected warning signs along Jaegers Walk and people are asked to adhere to these high risk signs.
Surfers are asked to be especially vigilant in the areas between Sunrise Beach and Strandfontein and again in the Macassar Beach area during the summer months.
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 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 any time, and should always remain vigilant when using the ocean.
Shark Spotting Programmes are operational at the following areas:
Summer (September to April):
Muizenberg corner: 7 days a week from 08:00 to 19:00
St James: 7 days a week from 08:00 to 19:00
Fish Hoek: 7 days a week from 08:00 to 18:45
Noordhoek (The Hoek): 7 days a week from 08:00 to 19:00
Clovelly: Weekends, public & school holidays 08:00 to 16:00
Glencairn: Weekends, public & school holidays 08:00 to 19:00
Winter (May to August):
Muizenberg corner: 7 days a week from 08:00 to 18:00
St James: 7 days a week from 08:00 to 18:00
Fish Hoek: 7 days a week from 08:00 to 18:00
Noordhoek (The Hoek): 7 days a week from 08:00 to 18:00
Shark safety tips
People are reminded that no safety measure is 100% effective and that although the Shark Spotting Programme has been successful, it in 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 areas 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 (whales, dolphins or porpoises) 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 formation)
- Consider using a personal shark shield when you go surfing or kayaking
- Pay attention to any shark signage on beaches
The public are encouraged to report any sightings of White Sharks to the Shark Spotting Programme via their website.
Issued by: Communication Department, City of Cape Town 30 August 2011
Media enquiries: * Gregg Oelofse, Environmental Resource Management Department, City of Cape Town, Tel: 021 487 2239 or Cell: 083 940 8143
* Alison Kock, Marine Biologist: Save our Seas Shark Centre, Cell: 072 661 9516 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org