Friday, September 08, 2006

Great White sharks tagging close beaches!

A string of False Bay beaches will be closed to swimming and boating for several days in October to allow researchers to tag great white sharks.The move comes after an apparent recent increase in shark sightings and attacks close to the shore.Gregg Oelofse, who represents the City of Cape Town on the Shark Working Group, said on Tuesday: "The intention will be to do an intensive, in-shore tagging exercise."The beaches that are likely to be closed are those between Glencairn and Muizenberg Corner, including Fish Hoek and St James.

'Chumming would not be used to attract the sharks'The team of researchers will include experts from the Marine and Coastal Management branch of the Department of of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, and University of Cape Town researcher Alison Kock."We want to try to tag as many sharks inshore as we can, so that we can, in time, have a better understanding of what's going on in False Bay," Oelofse said.

"(Kock) already has a number of receivers on the ocean floor and beaches around False Bay. These will then pick up the movements of the sharks that are tagged."To tag a white shark, you have to get it up to a boat. We want to close the beaches (while we do this), because safety is obviously our first concern."Oelofse said chumming would not be used to attract the sharks."The shark spotters will guide the boat to the shark and bait - like a piece of tuna on a rope - will be used to attract the shark to the boat."

"But it will be weather-dependent, so we'll pick the right time and we'll inform people long in advance. There'll also be city officials on the beaches to make people aware of what's going on," Oelofse said."There'll also be boats in the water to make sure no kayakers or anyone else is in the vicinity. "It's very much in the public interest that this operation takes place. We don't want to inconvenience people, but we'd rather err on the side of caution."

Oelofse said Kock had already tagged around 30 great whites off Seal Island."Now we need to tag sharks in-shore too to cover all bases."Their tags, or "pingers", would emit a signal for up to two years. This would be picked up by the receivers on the sea bed.The Fish Hoek beach was temporarily closed to water users last year, as part of the shark-tagging programme.


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