Following two recent incidents on my local beach (Fish Hoek) I thought it worth writing a blog post on being wise on the beach this summer.

Although we’re in the last full week of the school holidays our wonderful South African weather will be no doubt continue luring people to the beautiful beaches all around the coast, so I hope the following will give you pause for thought and that we can all enjoy the sea, sand and sun without getting into trouble.

The first incident involved the Sharkspotters who do a fantastic job scanning the waters for sharks at a number of Cape Town beaches. Last week two whales were spotted just off Jager’s Walk which runs along the water at Fish Hoek beach. Shortly thereafter the shark warning siren was sounded – when this happens the public are required to leave the water. A white shark flag is hoisted to indicate that a shark has been sighted. After the shark has moved on a red flag is then hoisted to let those just arriving at the beach know that one was recently spotted in the water.

Now because the whales had been seen by a number of people, word got around that the Sharkspotters had mistaken the whales for sharks and therefore members of the public, thinking they knew better than the trained Sharkspotters, chose to ignore the siren and flags.

But in fact a 5 metre shark HAD been spotted by the Sharkspotters.

According to Alan Lindner of A Whale of a Heritage Route, Alison Kock of Save Our Seas sent him the following email in response to this series of events:

“I have spent a lot of time with the Spotters at the sites, including Fish Hoek when sharks, whales, dolphins, seals and fish have been sighted and can confidently say that they would not mistake a whale (or dolphin) for a shark! If the spotter said he saw a shark then people should trust that he saw a shark and respond accordingly…I just want to say that it was very unwise for the swimmers to continue with their swim under these conditions i.e. the shark alert, recent sightings in the area and other indications of high marine animal life which may indicate shark presence too. Hopefully the swimmers at least stayed in shallow water!”.

 Later that same day Alison added:

“We have now had five shark sightings by Spotters today (2 Fish Hoek, 2 Muizenberg, 1 St. James) as well as a sighting by NSRI at Long Beach Simonstown. The Glencairn spotter has reported dolphins and birds feasting on a bait ball in the area. We are issuing a general caution through the media”.

The second incident was over the weekend when a 30 year old man drowned at Fish Hoek beach.

This was on one of the very hot days we experienced and the entire beach was packed from Fish Hoek to Clovelly. According to reports on Cape Talk radio, the life guards on duty walked up and down the beach asking people to please only swim between the flags. This was due to the fact that with so many people in the water they were unable to watch the areas past the flags and was in the interest of the swimmers’ safety.

Instead of being grateful, some members of the public reportedly told the life guards that they had been swimming at that beach for many years and didn’t need to be told where they could and couldn’t swim.

Is it really that difficult to help the people who work tirelessly to keep us safe? Why fight them instead of co-operating?

Instead of thinking you know more than those who have been trained in their fields why not work together to make their job easier.

And it doesn’t hurt to be polite and friendly while you’re at it!

 Joy-Anne Goodenough

 Online Content Editor, The Portfolio Collection