Cape Town is a city of ocean lovers – and great white sharks. But rather than eliminating these beautiful animals, the City has found a way of living with them. Shark Spotters are always on the lookout for sharks and warn beachgoers when one is approaching.
The Shark Spotters programme in Cape Town, South Africa, improves beach safety through both shark warnings and emergency assistance in the event of a shark incident. The programme contributes to research on shark ecology and behaviour, raises public awareness about shark-related issues, and provides employment opportunities and skills development for spotters.
Shark Spotters believe that if they can reduce the already small risk of a shark bite, then they can make a meaningful contribution to white shark conservation, contribute to community well-being, and set a precedent in how people and sharks can co-exist.
Shark Spotters is a pioneering shark safety programme that has attracted international and local attention because of the novel way it seeks to find a solution to potential conflicts between sharks and people. Adopted by the City of Cape Town in 2004 in response to a spate of shark bite incidents and increased shark sightings, Shark Spotters is now the primary shark safety programme used in Cape Town.
The aim of Shark Spotters is to keep people and sharks safe. To achieve this, Shark Spotters are positioned at strategic points along the Cape Peninsula, primarily the False Bay coastline, in South Africa. Each spotter is positioned on the mountain with polarised sunglasses and binoculars, and is in radio contact with another spotter on the beach. If a shark is seen the beach spotter sounds a siren and raises a specific colour-coded flag (see diagram below). When the siren sounds the water users are requested to leave the water and only return when the appropriate all-clear signal is given.
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