Shark spotters not taking any chances
But swimmers often ignore warning flags and don’t check when last sightings were made
THERE are plenty of great white sharks cruising around False Bay, prompting both experts and the City of Cape Town to warn swimmers and surfers to be vigilant.
Shark attacks are extremely rare and the predators are believed to be hunting fish which are abundant in False Bay now.
But with the holidays approaching, 30 shark spotters are gearing up for the busy season and will be working from 7am until 7pm.
Alison Kock, principal scientist of the Save Our Seas Shark Centre and Shark Spotting Programme, said the high number of recent sightings occurred when there were schools of yellowtail and steenbras in the bay.
The spotters had observed the sharks close to the fish.
There were a couple of occasions when the sharks were a few hundred metres from swimmers but the siren went off, warning people to get out the water.
Kock said some swimmers still refused to leave the water or went out deep when the red flag was raised.
This flag is flown after a shark has been spotted and the beach cleared, or when conditions are conducive to high shark activity.
Kock said lots of people ignored flags and didn’t check when the last sightings occurred.
“We can’t tell people what to do – all we can do is provide information so they can make smart decisions.”
On Monday five sharks were spotted at Fish Hoek and six at Muizenberg, and spotters are reporting sightings on most days.
The most recent attack was at Fish Hoek in January when Lloyd Skinner was killed while swimming off Jagger’s Walk.
Kock said at the time that the shark had probably been hunting a large school of fish nearby.
“But the more I learn about sharks the more I realise they are not interested in us as food,” she said this week.
She said that in the 50 years since 1960 just 25 attacks have occurred around the Cape Peninsula, and only four of them were fatal.
Kock warned that shark spotters could not see every shark because of issues like cloud cover and poor sea visibility obscured views.
“But these guys are doing a fantastic job often under difficult conditions.”
They worked closely with the trek-netters, lifeguards, law enforcement and the National Sea Rescue Institute.
Kock said the high number of sharks in the bay was normal for this time of year.
“People must understand that nowhere else in the world are they getting daily updates and so much information about what the sharks are doing.”
You can go on to the website ( www. s harkspotters. or g . z a) which is updated after every sighting and can subscribe to an SMS alert for a “once off ” update of recent shark sight- ings or a weekly update and safety tips.
Kock said there had also been an unconfirmed sighting of a shark off Clifton Second Beach this week.
“Someone took a picture with their phone and a policeman confirmed it was a shark but we’re not sure what type.”
She said there had also been unconfir med sightings off Llandudno and Dunes at Noordhoek.