Gert Bam, Director of Sport, Recreation and Amenities, encourages the public to acquaint themselves with the warning signals issued by the Shark Spotters when arriving at the beach. “The public should make a point of reading information signage provided on the beach and familiarising themselves with the colour-coded flags; they can enquire with a Shark Spotter based at the beach if necessary,” he said.
The authorities have identified improving communication with the public about the risk of encounters with sharks subsequently to the fatal shark attack at Fish Hoek beach in January 2010. In the light of this tragedy and to help prevent other attacks we encourage you to read an adapted version of a press release regarding sharks and shark safety issued by the City of Cape Town toward the end of 2009 – see below. The City will also place additional signage at the Jagger’s Walk end of the beach to alert swimmers to the potential risk of sharks in the area. The full report following the investigation into the attack has been loaded under latest news on the Home page of this website.
In the event of an incident, the first emergency numbers to phone are Metro on 021 937 0301 Control Room and Sea Rescue – NSRI on 021 449 3500. The new sharkline number 078 1744 244.
SHARK SAFETY FOR THE SUMMER SEASON
Although White sharks are present in False Bay throughout the year shark sightings in the in-shore area recorded by the shark spotters have consistently shown a seasonal increase between August – March, peaking in mid-summer. This is not a unique phenomenon.
Analysis of the shark spotter’s data from the two beaches with the highest number of shark sightings, Muizenberg and Fish Hoek , reveals that most sharks (over 65 % of sightings) are observed swimming behind the breakers travelling in a directional pattern from one side of the beach to another, parallel to the shore. Alison Kock from the Save Our Seas Shark Centre and the research director for the Shark Spotters says that this suggests that in most cases sharks are simply swimming past these beaches on their way to another location and water users in these areas should “limit the amount of time they spend behind the breakers far away from shore”.
Kayakers and surfskiiers should be also be vigilant in the area between Sunnycove and Glencairn Beach and surfers and swimmers in the areas between Sunrise Beach and Strandfontein and in the Macassar Beach area.
People are encouraged to use areas where shark spotters are on duty.
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, recognising the importance of implementing environmentally friendly solutions to maintain social confidence in the coastline as a safe recreational asset and to ensure the long-term conservation of white sharks in the waters of Cape Town.
Kommetjie Environmental Awareness group (KEAG) manages the Shark Spotting programme which also involves research in partnership with the Save Our Seas Shark Centre on white shark movement patterns, residency and behaviour in False Bay.
White sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) have been protected in South Africa since 1991 and are listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List and on Appendix II of the CITES convention.
Shark safety tips
People are reminded that no safety measure is 100 % effective and that although the Shark Spotting programme has been successful it remains vulnerable to human error, weather conditions and water quality issues. The following tips can help reduce the risk of attack:
- 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:
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 074 185 0123