“The City’s Environmental Resource Management Department is on track to trial the shark exclusion net at Fish Hoek during the 2012/2013 summer season. It is currently planned that the trial could take place from January 2013 onwards as certain matters are still being finalised.  Extract from City Media release of 4 Sept 2012

What will the Fish Hoek Shark Exclusion Net look like?

Minor design details to the net have been made to make it more easily deployable.  Firstly the overall length of the net has been reduced from 355 running meters to 285 running meters.  The net will also be in two sections – a short length extending from an anchor point below Jagger’s Walk and the main section running parallel to Jagger’s Walk to the beach.  This modification is so the net can be more easily deployed as it will not be left in the water overnight.  The net will not be set or will be retrieved if there is a high presence of marine animals or fish in the area or in strong wind conditions that could result in a large kelp load.  See the photo on the RHS to get an overview of the position and location of the net. Note that Exclusion nets are small meshed nets designed to act as a barrier to sharks preventing them from entering an enclosed area and are not designed to trap or kill sharks.

The status of the project to date.

The City has approved the budget to make the exclusion net and to manage the trial programme.

Discussions with the net makers are advanced and as soon as they get the go ahead and the funds the net can be completed within 10 days.

The Dept Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has given in principle approval but still needs to issue the permit.

Discussions with the trek net fishing rights holder at Fish Hoek beach, to ensure that the exclusion net does not impact on his fishing activities are in an advanced stage.  A key concern is that the exclusion net does not impact on the yellowtail season which peaks in late summer and provides the treknetters with a significant proportion of their income.  In recognition of their experience in working with nets and understanding the sea conditions at Fish Hoek Beach, the treknetters will be paid a service fee to set and bring in the shark exclusion net each day that it is deployed.  In the, hopefully, unlikely event that the exclusion net has a negative impact on the trek net fishers catch this will be offset by their being paid to place and retrieve the net.

Management of the deployment of the exclusion net will be undertaken by staff on the Shark Spotters Programme.  The net will NOT replace the Shark Spotters Programme at Fish Hoek Beach.

A marine researcher is being appointed to monitor and record the impact of the net on marine life to ensure that its implementation does not result in the entanglement of large species and that accidental catches of small fish such as haarders is minimal.  

Discussions with the Fish Hoek Surf Lifesavers who have been very supportive of an exclusion net have also been positive.  A key issue here is the need by the Surf Lifesavers of a safe training area for the nippers and for a safe arena in which to host competitions.  The Fish Hoek Surf Lifesaving Club have won the national championships repeatedly and also boast world champions in many surf and lifesaving categories.  However the recruitment of young blood to the club has dropped significantly after the shark attacks in recent years and competition sponsors have also withdrawn their support for events hosted at Fish Hoek because of their perception of the risk of a shark attack.  The Surf Lifesaving club understandably see the Shark exclusion net as essential to their continued ability to train and host championships. Fish Hoek Beach is and will remain a public facility and the surf lifesavers will have to share the use of the protected swimming area with the public although it may be closed to the public for specific times during major competitions. 

Response of the respective user groups to the exclusion net will also be on trial.

The trail of the shark exclusion net will not only be aimed at ensuring that the technology is up to the challenge, that the net can be effectively and affordably managed without a negative ecological impact, but it will also trial the sharing by wate users of the safe space created by the exclusion net

A wide range of user groups have traditionally enjoyed Fish Hoek Beach for a range of activities.  The most obvious, not in any order of importance are the early morning swimmers, summer holiday makers, locals, the trek fishers, the surf lifesavers, etc.  Will the news about a safe-from-sharks-swimming-area result in a return of the popularity of Fish Hoek beach as a carefree family swimming beach?  Certainly the research, energy and investment that is going into creating a safe swimming area needs corresponding good use by the water using public.  In addition, it will require an acknowledgement by all users that it is a public space that needs to be shared.

Personally I am excited by this trial and believe that it is an ambitious project that has merit. If we work together to sort out the hiccups it has every chance of success. I look forward to frolicking in the waves without searching seaward and to swimming out along Jagger’s Walk like I used to.  285m!  Phew! I wonder if I can still swim that far?

 Notes by KimK following from discussions with Gregg Oelofse of Environmental Resource Management Department City of Cape Town 12 Sept 2012

Read more at: http://scenicsouth.co.za//2012/02/city-proposes-trial-shark-exclusion-net-for-fish-hoek-beach/  

See stats for inshore visits by great white sharks in False Bay with research findings about temperature and other factors which appear to indicate trends at http://scenicsouth.co.za//2012/09/city-warns-of-sharks-returning-to-false-bay-beaches-during-spring-summer/