First great white shark spotted in False Bay in 20 months

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File photo: A great white shark.
File photo: A great white shark.
Jay Caboz, News24

A great white shark was spotted in False Bay on Tuesday - for the first time in 20 months, a City of Cape Town official confirmed.

Gregg Oelofse, who is in charge of coastal management at the City, said the shark was sighted in the middle of the bay at Seal Island in the morning.

"We welcome the sighting, but it is too early to refer to it as a 'development'," said Oelofse.

"We are monitoring the situation and will only be able to determine the significance, or a possible return of the great white sharks to False Bay, once more sharks are sighted over an extended period of time."

Chris Fallows, owner of Apex Shark Expeditions, said they had been at the island to look for sevengill sharks.

"When the crew was getting ready to dive, they had a four metre great white shark come up to the boat," he said.

"When you have worked with them for 25 years and they suddenly disappear, to see one of your old friends come back is a fantastic experience."

Shark Spotters' applied research programme has been monitoring white shark activity and behavioural ecology in False Bay since 2004.

Between 2010 and 2016, the spotters recorded an average of 205 white shark sightings per year at their operating beaches during the spring and summer period.

In 2018, the total number of recorded shark sightings fell to just 50. In 2019, not a single sighting was reported by the spotters.

Spotters were in place at the popular beaches of Fish Hoek, Clovelly, Kalk Bay, Muizenberg, Monwabisi and the Caves at Kogel Bay.

The City and Shark Spotters will continue to monitor shark activity in False Bay.

The City said the Fish Hoek shark exclusion net will be deployed until March 31, and as per schedule, unless high wind and sea conditions prevented the deployment.

The shark exclusion net was 100% effective in preventing shark access to the enclosed area but residents and visitors should remain vigilant and cautious when visiting beaches.

"The spotters still regularly observe other large shark species in the inshore area, such as bronze whaler sharks. While these do not pose as a significant threat to water users as great white sharks, it is often hard to distinguish between the two species," said Oelofse.

"[It is] better to avoid being in close proximity to them especially when prey is in the area. As we have seen this morning, the great white sharks may also return at any time. We urge water users to behave responsibly and to adhere to Shark Spotters' warnings and to leave the ocean immediately when they hear the siren or are told to do so by a spotter or lifeguard."

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