The Fish Hoek Surf Livesavers have been calling for research to aid the identification of great white sharks that frequent the inshore areas of False Bay and which also record their movements in and around popular recreational areas. Their letter below details their support for the current Shark Tagging and associated research which is being made possible by the OCearch expedition.
Letter by the Mike Schilperoort of the Fish Hoek Surf Livesavers Spokesman on Great White Shark Research
Background: Shortly after the attack on Tyna Webb, key members of the Fish Hoek Surf Lifesaving Club were present at the hastily convened public meeting to discuss what should be done to avoid further shark attacks in the False Bay area. Comments such as “ Rogue Shark”, “Kill the Shark“ and “ Chumming “ were bandied about.
Alison Kock , well known White Shark scientist was at that meeting and whilst trying to answer a barrage of emotionally charged questions and being subjected to verbal abuse by those wanting to have the “Rogue Shark“ killed, she noted that part of her research was to try and identify as many sharks as possible in False Bay. This was done by taking photographs of their dorsal fins and keeping a library of info on shark sightings, in order to try and correlate a pattern of shark movements in False Bay. Tagging of sharks was also going to take place. However the lack of funds and technology at the time meant that this option was extremely limited.
The photo on the RHS was taken by M Schilperoort, as an independent observer on a tagging project in False Bay with Alison Kock in 2010. It shows the camera being fitted on the fin which proved to be difficult and cumbersome, unlike the procedure being used on the OCEarch project to fit satelite and acoustic tags. The camera would detach itself after eight hours underwater and would then have to be tracked and collect by Alison before the data collect could be used. It was generally unsuccessful.
That was six years ago and since then , we have had shark attacks on JP Andrews in the surf off Muizenburg , Agmat Hassiem , a Lifesaver at Strandfontein Lifesaving Club also in the surf off Sunrise Beach , Lyle Marsdorf, a Lifesaver at Fish Hoek Surf Lifesaving Club , on a surfski off Fish Hoek Beach, LLoyd Skinner off Fish Hoek Beach, Michael Cohen off Clovelly Beach and now David Lilienfeld off Koel Bay (Koggel Bay). There have also been two further attacks on two divers, one off Millers Point and one off Rooi Els, both of whom disappeared without trace, presumably eaten by a shark.
The above have all happened in the past six years and despite marine scientists efforts to gather as much information on white shark movements in False Bay as possible, members of the public are generally none the wiser as to why this is happening and whether there is any pattern at all on shark movements in and around the False Bay.
There have been many public meetings after all the incidences listed above and as a result we now have the Shark Spotting Programme in place, which goes a long way to allay fears of some swimmers and surfers using the popular spots along the False Bay coast.
So, when the Ocearch Research Project was announced, we supported the project and looked forward to being able to view shark movements in False Bay with much anticipation. This was what we had been waiting for, for the last six years. We felt the negative publicity Ocearch received, was unfortunate and based on mis – information and personal agendas.
The shark attack on David Lilienfeld is tragic and the timing associated with the attack and the research vessel being in the False Bay three days before the attack was most unfortunate.
However , our support for this programme remains. It is our view that it is VITAL that we are able to get as much information on White Shark movements in False Bay as soon as possible. We are happy with the permit being issued from 14 May to 31 May for the tagging of six white sharks . We would however, expect all information on the capture and tagging of the sharks to be communicated to interested parties through the internet as and when requested. We would go further and suggest that some inshore tagging of sharks be done in and around Fish Hoek Bay. This would allow the possibility of tagging a shark that is a frequent visitor to the north and western coastline of False Bay. The information received from such a tagging would be invaluable to scientists and many other interested parties in the area , including Fish Hoek Surf Lifesaving Club .
This research project is doing exactly what many people have been calling for from the time of the first shark attack in False Bay. The bonus here is that we can now all view this information on the internet within days of the sharks being tagged and it is going to cost us nothing.
Fish Hoek Surf Lifesaving Club will be posting all current shark information on our website on a weekly basis. We will also be posting up to date information on our club notice board. We would expect all other lifesaving clubs in the Cape Town area to do the same .
We would also like to see this information being printed in the media on a weekly basis , perhaps on a Saturday along with the weather and surf forecasts. Also, it should be included in Deon Bings’s surf report on Cape Talk on a Saturday and Sunday morning.
The information posted on the internet will also be of great interest to many schools and universities all of which will go a long way in educating those interested in white sharks in False Bay. This increased information will also give surfers, paddle skiers, and swimmers a better indication of shark movements in and around their favorite haunts.
SHARK CAGE DIVING AND ASSOCIATED CHUMMING IN FALSE BAY
It is the view of Fish Hoek Surf Lifesaving Club that chumming in False Bay is a reality and that to ban chumming would mean banning all commercial and leisure fishing in False Bay, as most , if not all line fishermen use chumming as a way of bringing fish to the boat.
Fish Hoek Surf Lifesaving is however against any form of enticement, needed to bring white sharks to boats. It is our opinion that enticing or feeding any type of fish or shark on a regular basis will condition those fish and sharks to that boat.
The information we have is that four Shark Cage Diving Permits have been issued for False Bay and that each of those permit holders will visit Seal Island an average of once a day, everyday, whilst the white Sharks are visiting and feeding around the Island. Sharks are expected to be around Seal Island from February to September. It would be difficult to imagine that with this frequency of chumming by Shark Cage Diving operators, will not result in the conditioning of those sharks. FHSLC would be against any form of activity that would agitate and bring more sharks into the area and we would therefore support a review of Shark Cage Diving Permits for Shark Cage Diving in False Bay.
To put Cage Diving chumming nd its proximity to popular False Bay beaches, into perspective, Seal Island is 6 Kilometers from Strandfontein Pavilion, 14 Kilometers from Fish Hoek Beach and 25 Kilometers from Koeel Bay.
FHSLC understands that the white shark is a protected species as is the Southern Right Whale and as with the Southern Right Whale it should not be disturbed by recreational or commercial water users . FHSLC feels that False Bay should be used for recreational purposes only and that commercial fishing should only take place by the more traditional methods, ie hand line fishing and trek net fishing.
Spokesman , Special Projects
For info about what leading southAfrican Scientists have to say about the OCearch research opportunity go to: http://scenicsouth.co.za//2012/04/great-white-sharks-in-false-bay-tagged-for-research/
To read about the need to move from fear of sharks to understanding and risk management go to: http://scenicsouth.co.za//2012/05/shark-attacks-in-false-bay%e2%80%93-fear-factor-vs-risk/
To read a shark cage dive operator’s concerns about the value of the industry and threat to sharks in False Bay go to http://scenicsouth.co.za//2012/05/false-bay-shark-cage-dive-operator-calls-for-protection-of-sharks/