Visit to the Shark Spotters

It is 5 a.m. and I am up. There is food to prepare, bathrooms to clean and deck to scrub. We all share the duties though and each day we do something different.

The plan is to leave the boat early and head off to Fish Hoek.

Shark project in South Africa in Cape Town

Cape Town Marina, V&A Waterfront

Shark project in South Africa in Cape Town. False Bay.

Sarah Titley from Shark Spotters explaining how the shark exclusion barrier at Fish Hoek works

Fish Hoek used to be regarded as one of the most dangerous beaches in the world. Some serious shark attacks caused fear among the local community. But since 2004 an NGO that uses pro-active methods of minimising the shark-human conflicts operates in the area.

Shark project in South Africa in Cape Town. False Bay.

A shark spotter’s observation point above the Muizenberg beach

Shark Spotters have a trained and dedicated team and keep a constant lookout on some of the local beaches. They use a series of huts in the mountains to look out for sharks that pose a potential threat. If such a shark is swimming towards a beach they will evacuate everyone. Up until now they have recorded 2020 sightings of great whites, but evacuated the beach only half of the times.

Shark project in South Africa in Cape Town. False Bay.

Inside the Shark Spotters office, Muizenberg beach

Shark project in South Africa in Cape Town. False Bay.

A white shark can  often mistakenly take a surfer for a seal

 

What is so great about the Shark Spotters?

I think that the simplicity and the effectiveness of their approach. Many countries invest huge amount of money testing complicated technologies that often do not work at all. And it turns out that simple and relatively cheap can be very effective.

What is  Shark Spotter equipped with?

Polarised sunglasses with a yellow filter, binoculars, an in depth knowledge and a lot of patience. The spotters are also thoroughly trained in first aid response.

What is special about the shark barrier they deploy?

Each day, early in the morning, the Shark Spotters set up a shark exclusion barrier at Fish Hoek beach. It is different from the traditional shark nets and is much more environmentally friendly. It is a unique system that proved to be very effective and at the same time kind to the wildlife. It is the only such system in the world that is set up and removed on a daily basis. This means that in the daytime, when beach goers visit Fish Hoek, they have a safe area to swim, completely isolated from the rest of the bay. In the evening Shark Spotters take the barrier away. This minimises the risk of entanglement of animals during the night, when nobody monitors the beach.

About Zofia Drapella

I always seek adventures, but want them to be meaningful (usually related to science, marine biology, teaching). I so often find myself in the most amazing circumstances and incredible places with inspiring people. I genuinely consider myself to be the luckiest person in the world... I love nature, oceans, mountains, jungles. I try my best to capture what I have the privilege to see/experience and share it with others.
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