White Sharks, South Africa
Cape Town, South Africa
To provide current scientific information on white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) abundance, distribution and behavioural patterns from their population in Cape Town, South Africa.
Why this is important:
Even though South Africa has been identified as a centre of abundance and white sharks have been protected here since 1991, white shark populations are threatened globally. Locally white sharks face threats of bycatch in various fisheries, habitat destruction, prey loss and poor public image. This project seeks to provide a thorough understanding of their ecological needs to ensure that protection and management measures are up-to-date and effective.
White sharks are threatened apex predators listed as ‘Vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Yet, information essential to effectively conserve and manage populations such as identification and their utilization of critical habitats remains sparse.
The research project has already determined the year-round presence and seasonal habitat use of white sharks within False Bay, Cape Town, identifying the area as a critical feeding habitat. White sharks aggregate around the Cape fur seal colony from May – September, and then many sharks change their strategy to inhabit the closer inshore areas of False Bay during September – April.
Challenging consequences of this inshore behaviour on the doorstep of a major city with a population of 3.5 million people are the negative interactions with ocean users as well as regular reports of bycatch in sport fishing. Fear, misconceptions and myth continue to plague the white shark and hinder conservation efforts. In January 2010 another fatal white shark attack at a popular beach left the community of Cape Town in shock with fresh calls for culling the population. Current scientific information continues to be instrumental in formulating effective awareness and safety programmes and preventing knee-jerk reactions to these tragic incidents.
Aims and Objectives
- Continuation of the maintenance to the tracking network of acoustic receivers, manual tracking and acoustic tagging to understand spatial and temporal movement patterns in False Bay. Focus is on identifying the driving forces, environmental and biological, behind the observed patterns.
- Photo-identification forms the backbone of the project to determine the population size and site-fidelity of white sharks.
- Through collaboration with National Geographic Society, Crittercams (animal-bourne cameras) will be attached to white sharks to determine what the sharks are feeding on when present in the inshore areas, their hunting strategies and social interactions.
- Shark sightings data collected by the City of Cape Town’s Shark Spotting Program are being used in conjunction with the acoustic monitoring data to get a clearer pattern of white shark presence inshore.
- Regular aerials surveys have started over the Cape Peninsula to estimate the abundance of sharks and distribution in the area.
- Graduate student Adrian Hewitt will focus on studying the poorly known reproductive biology of white sharks.
- Understanding the relationship between shark presence, oceans user presence and sharks bites with the aim of mitigating shark-human conflict in Cape Town through research, education and awareness.
Cape Town has been at the forefront of forward thinking on the issue of the presence of white sharks close to its shores. They have achieved this through the implementation of a conservation aware White Shark and Recreational Safety Policy…
There is currently an opportunity to attach a Crittercam to various great white sharks in the inshore area of False Bay through a collaboration between the Save Our Seas Shark Centre, National Geographic Society and the City of Cape Town.…
On the 9 September 2010 a dead ~ 11 meter Brydes whale (Balaenoptera edeni) was located by Chris Fallows of Apex Expeditions drifting towards the shore at Partridge Point, near Simonstown, where it would’ve created a ~ 10 ton ‘clean-up’…
Over 20 years ago scientists started using the unique shapes and patterning on white sharks’ dorsal fins to recognize individuals and help them catalogue and re-identify sharks. However, in many cases there are hundreds of photos to go through and…
Effective conservation of wildlife populations is best managed from a strong ecological foundation. As human awareness of environmental issues grows and the need to understand ecosystems intensifies, there is an increasing need for further research into population demographics and life…