Cape Town beachgoers urged to be cautious as sharks return to False Bay

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Beachgoers are urged to be extra vigilant this holiday season as four sharks have been recently spotted in Strandfontein, Muizenberg and Fish Hoek.
Beachgoers are urged to be extra vigilant this holiday season as four sharks have been recently spotted in Strandfontein, Muizenberg and Fish Hoek.
  • Beachgoers are being urged to be extra cautious after sharks were spotted at Strandfontein, Muizenberg and Fish Hoek.
  • According to Shark Spotters, there hasn't been an attack in Cape Town since 2014.
  • People have been warned to not enter the ocean when it is murky, or after twilight. 

Four great white and bronze whale sharks have been spotted recently at Strandfontein, Muizenberg and Fish Hoek beaches.

Shark Spotters Safety Education Research Conservation (SSSERC) in Cape Town issued the warning after seeing an increase in shark activities in and around False Bay.

In the past few days, two great white sharks have been spotted just off Strandfontein beach, and two 2.2m bronze whale sharks have also been seen recently.

Shark Spotters' Sarah Waries told News24 that there hadn’t been any shark attacks in Cape Town since 2014.

"We’ve seen a total of five sharks this year, with regular sightings of bronze whale sharks. In previous years, we’d see about 200 sharks during the year, before white sharks started disappearing in 2018. They’ve now started making a comeback to our shores, and it’s great that we can spot them after they’ve been gone for so long," she said.

Waries added that bronze whale sharks could grow up to 3m in size and usually hunted for their food.

"Even though there have been no records of these sharks attacking people in South Africa, it is still advisable for people to practice safety precautions when entering the oceans," she said. 

What to do when you see a shark

Waries added that if people were not fully aware of all of the risks of swimming in the ocean, or were not prepared to take these risks, they should not go into the water.

"White sharks, like all predators, are more likely to identify a solitary individual as potential prey. So, try to remain in a group. They are primarily visual hunters which would normally allow them to correctly distinguish you from their preferred prey species," she added.

"Avoid entering the ocean when it is murky, or during darkness or twilight hours, when sharks rely on their other senses to locate potential prey, rather than their vision.

"When encountering a white shark remain as calm as you can. Assess the situation. Do not panic! Panicked, erratic movements are likely to increase the shark’s curiosity, draw it closer to you and possibly send signals similar to an injured or distressed prey. Use any equipment (camera, surfboard, etc.) you may be carrying to create a barrier between yourself and the shark," Waries said.

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If you see a shark, calmly alert other ocean users around you. Remain in or create a group, and leave the water in a calm and swift, but smooth, manner.

"You must alert the lifeguards or shark spotters, immediately, " added Waries.  

Being bitten by a shark remained a concern for many beachgoers, even though statistically, the chances are extremely low, Waries added.

Of the more than 500 species of shark, only the great white bull (Zambezi) and tiger shark posed a significant threat to humans.

"All three of these species occur in waters off Africa, although in Cape Town we only deal with white sharks, as bull and tiger sharks do not occur in Cape waters," she added.

Here are some shark safety tips to 'B Shark Smart" and avoid encountering a shark at the beach:

  • Avoid swimming in murky water and in low light because there is a higher chance of sharks mistaking you for their natural prey.
  • Don’t swim/surf/paddle at night or alone.
  • Avoid wearing contrasting colours and shiny jewellery, sharks see contrasting colours very well and the shimmer of jewellery can resemble shiny fish scales.
  • Listen to shark spotters, lifesavers, or law enforcement if you told to leave the water.
  • Avoid swimming on your own.
  • Stay in demarcated swimming areas.



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