In gearing up for the summer season, the City of Cape Town is reminding beachgoers to be vigilant as the presence of great white sharks in the in-shore areas increases this time of year. The Fish Hoek shark exclusion net is being deployed and retrieved daily and Shark Spotters are monitoring identified beaches to ensure the safety of all visitors to in-shore areas.
Since September, there have been 57 shark sightings at beaches monitored by the Shark Spotters.
There have been 36 sightings at Muizenberg corner, seven at Fish Hoek, five at Monwabisi, three at St James, two at Caves (Kogel Bay), two at Glencairn, one sighting at Noordhoek (The Hoek) and one at Clovelly.
With the presence of great white sharks at in-shore areas expected to increase over the summer season, the City is ensuring that the necessary precautionary measures are being effected.
Shark Spotters are monitoring identified beaches to ensure the safety of all visitors to in-shore areas and the Fish Hoek shark exclusion net is being deployed and retrieved daily.
The Fish Hoek exclusion net has proven to be an effective shark safety measure by creating a physical barrier preventing any sharks from entering the bathing area. Trials conducted during 2013 and 2014 indicated that the risk to marine life remains very low, and that there are high levels of public support for the exclusion net becoming a permanent feature of Fish Hoek Beach.
From November 2014 to March 2015, the Fish Hoek exclusion net will operate on a daily basis, depending on the weather. Weekends, public holidays and school holidays will be prioritised.
The exclusion net will not be deployed if weather conditions (wind and swell) are deemed to be unsuitable; this is assessed on a daily basis. If weather conditions deteriorate over the course of a day when the net is already deployed, the net may be removed as a precautionary measure. Additionally, if there is a high presence of whales or other marine mammals in the area, the net will not be deployed. The net will also not be deployed when trek-netting is taking place in the area. If a whale moves into the area while the net is deployed, the Shark Spotters herd the animal away from the net and out of the area, using the exclusion net boat. This is in accordance with the approved Whale Disentanglement Strategy and residents and visitors should not be concerned if this occurs.
On days that the exclusion net is deployed, the operating hours will be from 09:00 to 17:00, and may occasionally be extended to allow for lifesaving training or events.
The Shark Spotters will keep beach users informed via Twitter (@Shark Spotters) and Facebook as to whether the net is deployed.
Shark Spotters are present at the following beaches over the summer months:
Beach Summer (October – April)
Muizenberg corner Monday – Sunday, 08:00 – 18:00
St James/Kalk Bay Monday – Sunday, 08:00 – 18:00
Fish Hoek Monday – Sunday, 07:00 – 18:45
Caves, Kogel Bay Monday – Sunday, 08:00 – 18:00
Noordhoek (The Hoek) Monday – Sunday, 08:00 – 18:00 (September to May)
Clovelly Weekends, public holidays and school holidays, 10:30 – 17:00
Glencairn Weekends, public holidays and school holidays, 10:30 – 17:00
Monwabisi Weekends, public holidays and school holidays, 10:30 – 17:00
General shark safety
The City urges members of the public to familiarise themselves with the following general shark safety tips:
• Use beaches where Shark Spotters are on duty
• Use the Shark Spotters signs to familiarise yourself with the four-flag warning system and warning siren
• Do not swim, surf or surf-ski when birds, dolphins or seals are feeding nearby
• Do not swim, surf or surf-ski 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 surf-ski at night
• Do not swim, surf or surf-ski if there has been a whale stranding nearby
• Obey beach officials, lifeguards and Shark Spotters if told to leave the water
• Be aware that the rate of encounters with white sharks rises significantly when the water temperature is warmer (18ºC or higher), and during new moon, due to increased opportunities for feeding
• If a shark has recently been sighted in an area where no Shark Spotters are present, consider using another beach for the day
• For those people kayaking or surf-skiing far out to the sea: please consider paddling in groups, and staying close together (in a diamond formation)
• Consider using a personal shark shield when you go surfing or kayaking
• Pay attention to any shark signage on beaches
Kayakers and surf-skiers are specifically asked to be cautious of the area between Sunnycove and Glencairn Beach, and swimmers are urged not to use the water off Jaegers Walk in Fish Hoek unless the exclusion net is deployed, as this is considered a high-risk area. The City has erected warning signs along Jaegers Walk to this effect.
Surfers are asked to be especially vigilant in the areas between Sunrise Beach and the Macassar Beach area during the spring and summer months, as research has shown that shark presence in these waters is extremely common at this time of year.
Furthermore, surfers should be aware that sightings of great white sharks at Noordhoek beach are common on the days following a north-west wind.
The City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Energy, Environmental and Spatial Planning, Councillor Johan van der Merwe, said the City and the public need to work together to ensure a safer summer season.
‘Over the festive season, there is an influx of visitors and locals to beaches. Therefore, through implementing its initiatives such as the ground-breaking Fish Hoek exclusion net and the Shark Spotter public awareness programme at its beaches, the City is demonstrating its commitment to ensure the safety of beachgoers. Furthermore, the City is calling on the public to work with us, by adhering to the displayed signage, or notifications and warnings issued, so that together we can make progress possible in ensuring a safer festive season for all,’ said Councillor Van der Merwe.
Photo Credit: Shark Spotters