Saturday, September 01, 2007

Shark season in Cape Town

Great white sharks have been spotted close to the False Bay coastline for the first time since June, and the city has issued an urgent warning to all beach and ocean users of the seasonal increase in great white sharks along Cape Town's inshore areas.Gregg Oelofse of the City of Cape Town's environmental resource management department said two sharks had been spotted since the weekend.

"Although white sharks are present in our waters all year round, we are approaching the time of the year when the possibility of encountering one of these animals is much greater," Oelofse said.In the Cape Peninsula there have been 28 documented shark attacks since 1960.

According to scientific evidence, sharks change their habitats from predominantly using the seal colony in the winter to predominantly using coastal inshore areas during the summer. "Over the past five years, the period of mid-August to the end of September has recorded the highest numbers of interactions between white sharks and recreational users.

"The Shark Working Group would thus urge people using the ocean to be extra vigilant over the next few months when the highest occurrence of inshore white shark activity is expected."Oelofse said the seasonal change was not unique to False Bay. "Similar behaviour is recorded in Gansbaai, Mossel Bay and even in California. In fact, anecdotal evidence from fishermen and military exercises suggest that this trend was documented in False Bay since the early 1900s," said Oelofse.The city council has adopted a five-year funding programme for the shark-spotting programme, which is unique in the world."

(On Monday), shark spotters recorded a shark sighting at Fish Hoek beach just after midday - the first in the area in months. A shark was also seen this past Saturday near Sonwabe beach, halfway between Strandfontein and Muizenberg."People are encouraged to use areas where shark spotters are on duty and to ask them about recent sightings and activity. They should also read the shark-spotting signs and acquaint themselves with the four flag warning system and use of a siren to close off the beach," says Oelofse.

Shark-spotting programmes currently operate seven days a week, from 8am to 6pm, at Muizenberg corner, St James beach, Fish Hoek and Noordhoek (The Hoek). From October the shift will be extended to 7pm.


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