Sharks on prowl as shoals head south

The first large shoals of yellow tail for the summer were spotted in False Bay over the weekend and the City of Cape Town wants to remind beach goers that the presence of great white sharks increases in in-shore areas with the arrival of yellow tail and higher water temperatures.

In-shore shark activity usually increases over the summer months, especially with the current yellow tail sightings.

“Shark sightings typically start in late August, and continue through to April, with most sightings being reported mid-summer. With the school holidays around the corner and warmer days ahead, I want to urge Capetonians and visitors to please take extra care when going into the ocean. Shark spotters and the Fish Hoek exclusion net are important safety measures, but the best precaution is to be alert and aware when in the water,” said Brett Herron, the City’s mayoral committee member for transport and urban development.

Approaching mid-summer, the City appeals to all beach goers to familiarise themselves with the following safety tips:

Use beaches where shark spotters are on duty

Take the time to speak to the shark spotters on the day you visit the beach

Use the shark spotters signs to familiarise yourself with the four-flag warning system and warning siren – the green flag indicates that spotting conditions are good; the red flag indicates that there is a high risk of in-shore shark activity; the black flag means spotting conditions are poor; and the white flag with the black shark indicates a shark has been spotted (a siren will sound and all should leave the water immediately)

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

First-time visitors to beach areas should ask the local law enforcement official, lifeguards or locals about the area

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 Surfers must be especially vigilant in the areas between Sunrise Beach and the Macassar Beach during the spring and summer months, as research has shown that shark presence in these waters is extremely common at this time of year.

The Shark Spotters information centre at Muizenberg Surfers Corner is open to the public from 8am until 6pm seven days a week. The centre provides up-to-date information on sharks and marine ecology, basic first-aid, general public assistance and help with emergencies, and storage of valuables and lost property.

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.

The exclusion net is in operation during the summer season as follows: October 2017 School holidays and weekends November 2017 – March 2018.

The 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 unsuitable. Conditions are assessed on a daily basis. If weather conditions deteriorate after the net has been deployed already, the net may be removed as a precautionary measure.

The net is not deployed when there is a high presence of whales or other marine mammals in the area. On days that the exclusion net is deployed, the operating hours will be from 9am to 5pm. The operating hours may be extended to allow for lifesaving training or events.

The shark spotters will inform beach goers as and when the net is deployed via Twitter, Facebook, and the Shark Spotter mobile application (app).

Residents and visitors are urged to download the Shark Spotters mobile app to access the latest shark safety information, including what flag is flying at each beach, the latest shark sightings, net deployments, and much more. The app is available free of charge for Apple and Android devices and can be downloaded by searching for ‘Shark Spotters’ on the app store.

For more information on the latest shark sightings and research, visit www.sharkspotters.org.za or follow the Shark Spotters on Twitter (@SharkSpotters) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/SharkSpotters).

“We encourage the public to report sightings of white sharks to the shark spotters. White sharks are present in our waters all year round and beach goers should be aware that there is always a small possibility of encountering one of these animals. Please remain vigilant while enjoying the ocean,” said Mr Herron.

* See page 11