ALERT: Seasonal shoals increase shark risk along Cape Town shores

2017-11-15 11:18 - Unathi Nkanjeni
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Cape Town -  Great white shark activity has increased along Cape Town’s beaches, with the City of Cape Town warning summertime beachgoers to heed the risks. 

The influx of apex predator activity is due to large seasonal shoals of yellowtail, with the first of these spotted in False Bay over the weekend.  

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Mayoral Committee Member Brett Herron says this, together with water temperature in excess of 18ºC or higher during the phase of the new moon, creates the  opportunity for dangerous encounters. 

"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," says Herron.

With the mid-summer drawing closer, the City advises beachgoers to familiarise themselves with certain safety measures.

"Use beaches where shark spotters are on duty, take the time to speak to the shark spotters on the day you visit the beach,' says the City. "Use the shark spotters signs to familiarise yourself with the four-flag warning system and a warning siren."

Flags beachgoers should look out for:

  • The green flag indicates that spotting conditions are good.
  • The red flag indicates that there is a high risk of inshore shark activity.
  • The black flag means spotting conditions are poor.
  • The white flag with the black shark indicates a shark has been spotted (a siren will sound and all should leave the water immediately).

Herron also advises to 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, [and] do not swim, surf or surf-ski if there has been a whale stranding nearby," he urges. 

The City says obeying beach officials, shark spotters and lifeguards are very important when you are told to leave the water. 

Herron says those visiting beaches for the first time should ask 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."

"Consider using a personal shark shield when you go surfing or kayaking and pay attention to any shark signage on beaches," says Herron. 

'Be vigilant between Sunrise Beach and the Macassar Beach'

The City of Cape Town says 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.

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To assist beachgoers with the latest information and safety tips this summer, the shark spotters information centre at Muizenberg Surfers Corner will be open from 08:00 to 18:00, 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.

Shark spotters are present at the following beaches:

Weather affects the deployment of exclsuions nets

As the province braces for some extreme weather the City says exclusion nets 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," says the City.

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The operating hours on the days the exclusion net will be deployed will be from 09:00 to 17:00, and this may be extended to allow events or lifesaving training. The Shark spotters will inform beachgoers as and when the net is deployed via social media.

The exclusion net is in operation during the summer season as follows:

"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," says the City.

"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 beachgoers should be aware that there is always a small possibility of encountering one of these animals. Please remain vigilant while enjoying the ocean," concludes Herron.

NOTE: 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.

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