Beach safety: What you need to know about sharks along SA's coastline

2015-11-18 10:09 - Sam Smith
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Cape Town - Beachgoers should be extra shark-savvy this summer, the City of Cape Town has warned.

As thousands of South Africans prepare to flock to Western Cape beaches – everyone should be aware of the seasonal presence of Great White sharks at in-shore areas over the summer season. Normally, shark sightings begin in late August and continue to April, with most sightings experienced during mid-summer. 

The City confirmed Sharkspotters and water users have recorded early sightings in the last two weeks in Muizenberg, St James and Clovelly, with the necessary safety precautions being put in place. Since September, there have been seven shark sightings at the beaches monitored by Shark Spotters. 

READ: Great Whites: How safe are SA's beaches really?

There has been one in Muizenberg, one in Caves (Kogel Bay), one in Monwabisi and four in Fish Hoek. Shark Spotters monitor identified beaches, checking in-shore areas to ensure safety, while the Fish Hoek shark exclusion net is deployed and retrieved daily. 

The Fish Hoek exclusion net is in operation between November 2015 and April 2016. Operating times are 09:00 and 17:00. Shark Spotters will keep you informed about the net via Twitter, Facebook and signage displayed at the beach. 

Analysis of the shark spotters’ data from the two beaches with the highest number of shark sightings, namely Muizenberg and Fish Hoek, reveals that most (over 65% of sightings) sharks are observed swimming behind the breakers traveling in a directional pattern from one side of the beach to another, parallel to the shore. 

Alison Kock of Save our Seas Foundation said, “This suggests that in most cases sharks are simply swimming past these beaches on their way to another location and we recommend that water users in areas of high shark activity limit the amount of time they spend behind the breakers far away from shore.”  

The data has also shown that in the event of a whale stranding, shark sightings increase significantly at adjacent beaches, and shark sightings may persist for up to a week after the stranding. Where there has been a whale stranding the City will close relevant beaches and the community is asked to understand this precautionary approach.  


ALSO SEE: Sharks! Beachgoers warned to know the signs

Great White sharks are in our waters all year round. Surfers should be extra vigilant in the stretch from Sunrise to Macassar Beaches during spring and summer. 

The city said there was a strong correlation between yellow tail movement and sharks in Fish Hoek. Members of the public are encouraged to report any sightings of Great White sharks to Shark Spotters.  

For more information on the latest shark sightings and research, please visit www.sharkspotters.org.za

READ: Cape Town tops for SA's Blue Flag beaches


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The City has urged the public to familiarise itself with the following general shark 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

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

Shark Spotters are present at the following beaches:

Muizenberg corner

Summer times: Mon – Sun, 08:00 – 18:00

Winter times: Mon – Sun, 08:00 – 18:00

St James/Kalk Bay:

Summer times: Mon – Sun, 08:00 – 18:00

Winter times: Mon – Sun, 08:00 – 18:00

Fish Hoek

Summer times: Mon – Sun, 07:00 – 18:45

Winter times: Mon – Sun, 08:00 – 18:00

Caves, Kogel Bay

Summer times: Mon – Sun, 08:00 – 18:00

Winter times: Mon – Sun, 08:00 – 17:00

Noordhoek (The Hoek)

Summer times: Mon – Sun, 08:00 – 18:00 (September to May)

Winter times: N/A

Clovelly

Summer times: Weekends, public holidays and school holidays, 10:00 – 17:00

Winter times: N/A 

A photo posted by geodoes (@geodoes) on

Glencairn

Summer times: Weekends, public holidays and school holidays, 08:00 – 18:00

Winter times: N/A

Monwabisi

Summer times: Weekends, public holidays and school holidays, 08:00 – 18:00

Winter times: N/A

A photo posted by Jan Breuer (@jb___213) on

Research shows shark sightings rise significantly when the water temperature is warmer 18ºC or higher and during the new moon phase – due to increased opportunities to feed. 

READ: 12 Places locals love in the Cape Town CBD

Stay shark smart...

If you are a first time visitor to the area and would like to explore the beaches, ask local law enforcement officials, lifeguards or locals about the area – they will be able to share some advice with you. 

READ: 20 Spectacular Cape Town stays for this summer

If you are a kayaker or surf-skier – consider paddling in groups and staying together in a diamond formation warns the City of Cape Town. Overall beach goers should always pay close attention to shark signage on beaches.