Shark Spotters

  • Sharks
Years funded
  • 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018
  • Active
Project type
  • Conservation

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.

Shark Spotters

Sarah Waries

Project leader
About the project leader
‘Growing up in Cape Town, South Africa, I’ve always enjoyed being close to the sea, but having a connection to one of its most feared and revered inhabitants – well, I never saw that coming,’ says Shark Spotters’ research manager, Alison Kock. ‘Fifteen years ago I was studying marine biology at the University of Cape Town and at the weekends I managed a car wash. One busy morning I saw something in the boot of a customer’s car that stunned me: photographs of a fully airborne great white shark just off Seal Island in False Bay. I couldn’t believe it. ‘Now...
PROJECT LOCATION : Cape Town, South Africa
All news about this project
By Tamlyn Engelbrecht, 28th September 2018
Brazen bronzies and cowshark cage dives: what is going on in False Bay?
It has been an eerily quiet year on the white shark scene in False Bay, both in the summer months inshore, and over winter at Seal Island. During the 2017/18 summer season, Shark Spotters recorded an all-time low number of white shark sightings across the…
By Sarah Waries, 19th September 2018
Do personal shark repellents really work?
It seems like everywhere you look nowadays there is a new gadget or gizmo on the market “guaranteed” to keep you safe from shark bites. Using everything from electric currents to chilli powder, clever marketing has got nervous ocean lovers reaching for their wallets and…
By Tamlyn Engelbrecht, 15th December 2017
Successfully balancing water user safety with shark conservation
After 13 years of watching over Cape Town’s most popular beaches, Shark Spotters remains the primary shark safety strategy adopted by the City of Cape Town, promoting beach safety for countless locals and tourists alike. But is the programme keeping on top of its game…
By Sarah Waries, 29th July 2015
My False Bay discoveries
Words by: Firdous Hendricks Firdous has a passion for anything to do with nature and hopes to help change people’s negative perceptions of sharks. She thrives on creative writing and enjoys exploring nature’s wonders in her free time. She is the communications and admin assistant…
By Sarah Titley, Alison Kock, 5th May 2015
From Vitamins to Fast Food: South Africa’s Shark & Ray Fishery
Blog written by Dave van Beuningen. Dave has a passion for the ocean and sharks in particular. Through his work in marine conservation he hopes to change the negative perceptions surrounding sharks and aid in their conservation. Dave is currently the research assistant/technician for Shark…
By Sarah Waries, 3rd February 2015
SHARK SPOTTERS FESTIVE SEASON REPORT DECEMBER 2014 – JANUARY 2015 Shark Spotters had another busy festive season this year with thousands of local and international visitors flocking to the beaches to enjoy the good weather, warm water and holiday atmosphere. Muizenberg, Monwabisi and Fish Hoek…
By Sarah Waries, 22nd September 2014
Shark Spotters & City of Cape Town win Eco-Innovation award for Fish Hoek Shark Exclusion Barrier
Shark Spotters and City of Cape Town win Eco-Innovation award for Fish Hoek shark exclusion barrier! ISSUED 22 SEPTEMBER 2014 After a nail biting month of anticipation City of Cape Town & Shark Spotters have been announced as the winners of the 2014 Eco-Logic Awards…
By Sarah Waries, 9th May 2014
The Fish Hoek shark exclusion (barrier) net trial comes to an end
It’s hard to believe that 14 months have passed since the start of the shark exclusion net trial in Fish Hoek. In 2012, the idea of installing an exclusion net at Fish Hoek beach (which had previously been considered and rejected) was reconsidered. A consultation…
By Sarah Waries, 9th December 2013
In preparation for the peak summer season, Shark Spotters is re-launching their summer campaign, #BeSharkSmart, encouraging beach goers to “think smart” when it comes to shark safety! We will be sharing #BeSharkSmart tips and facts daily and will be actively engaging with the public on…
By Sarah Waries, 20th November 2013
How do you remove a whale carcass from a local beach?!
On the 12 Nov 2013 a 10 ton whale carcass washed up on St. James beach, where it posed a health and safety risk. 15 hours later, with massive team work and effort by the City of Cape Town, Shark Explorers, Shark Spotters and the…
By Sarah Waries, 29th August 2013
Update on the Fish Hoek exclusion net project
Shark Spotters’ core mission is to find pro-active, environmentally friendly solutions to reduce shark-human conflict, for the benefit of people and sharks. The trial exclusion net project fits this mandate. In March 2013, Shark Spotters and the City of Cape Town commenced the trial of…
By Sarah Waries, 18th July 2013
Shark forecasting: Predicting white shark presence at Cape Town beaches
Shark attacks are high profile events which can negatively impact coastal tourism and public perceptions of sharks, often leading to the use of mitigation methods which are harmful to the marine environment and wildlife. A new study shows that white shark presence at two popular…
By Sarah Waries, 31st January 2013
New study shows female great white sharks show high residency to inshore coastal area
Seal colonies are well established white shark aggregation areas, but a new study shows that inshore coastal areas (not associated with seals) can be equally as important for white sharks and that use of aggregation areas can differ between the sexes, which has important management…
By Sarah Waries, 18th December 2012
Spotters now operating at eighth beach, Monwabisi, with three white sharks spotted in the first day!
Shark Spotters started operating at our eighth location today, Monwabisi Beach, on the northern shore of False Bay. (15 December 2012). The sharks gave us a warm welcome, with two white sharks spotted at 12.45pm and one at 2.05pm. Due to the sharks being spotted…
By Sarah Waries, 12th September 2012
Shark Spotters Training
Winter months generally have low shark activity on the inshore areas and are therefore quieter from a shark spotting perspective. We therefore take this opportunity to get in some much needed training with the spotters, which we all thoroughly enjoy! One of the biggest factors…
By Sarah Waries, 9th July 2012
New operating beach, update on sightings and new research findings published!
It’s been a busy few months at Shark Spotters. On 1st June 2012 we expanded our programme to a seventh beach, the Caves, Koeel Bay on the eastern shore of False Bay. The Caves was the site of the tragic shark incident in April and…
By Sarah Waries, 2nd April 2012
Whale Shark Spotted in Noordhoek
Yesterday, 1 April, at approximately 11am, a large shark was spotted in Noordhoek by a group of surfers. They observed the shark patrolling up and down the inshore area, in beautiful crystal waters. The shark was originally thought by onlookers to be a white shark,…
By Sarah Waries, 13th March 2012
Shark Spotters report: White shark caught in experimental whelk fishing gear in Fish Hoek bay
At approximately 10.30 am on 11 March, Shark Spotters research manager, Alison Kock, was alerted by whelk fishermen operating in Fish Hoek bay that they had found a large white shark entangled in their fishing gear. By all accounts the animal was dead when found…
By Sarah Waries, 21st February 2012
Summer Season Update and Shark Spotters gets Published!
The Shark Spotters had a busy time over the festive season, with Cape Town’s beaches packed full of both local and international holiday makers. The spotters worked right through the holidays, and there were a total of 16 sightings between 10 Dec and 10 Jan…
By Sarah Waries, 3rd October 2011
Shark Spotters are now even better equipped to keep you in the loop!
Awareness and education are core components of the Shark Spotters programme. Our new website allows us to keep the community in touch with the most recent shark sightings, shark warnings and other related information directly from the field. Check out our site which now has…
By Sarah Waries, 7th September 2011
Getting ready for the summer season and nearing our 1000th shark sighting
Recent shark activity After a quiet winter season on the Cape Peninsula, the Shark Spotting team is busy preparing for the upcoming summer season, which is sure to be a busy one! As we have come to expect, shark sightings were few and far between…
By Sarah Waries, 28th March 2011
White shark predates on seal in Fish Hoek 27 March
At approximately 09h30 yesterday a shark was sighted in Fish Hoek and all water users were called out of the water. It swam on the surface for a short period past a seal and at that stage seemingly (as described by the spotter on duty)…
By Sarah Waries, 6th January 2011
Beach goers cautioned of increased white shark activity in False Bay
The City of Cape Town and the Shark Spotting Programme would like to inform beach goers of increased white shark activity in the False Bay area and are appealing to all water users to be extra vigilant at this time. Shark Spotters have today recorded…
By Sarah Waries, 30th November 2010
High white shark activity in False Bay
The City of Cape Town and the Shark Spotting Programme would like to make water users aware of the current high white shark activity in the inshore area of False Bay, particularly in the Muizenberg, Fish Hoek and Clovelly area. Yesterday, the 29 November, Shark…
Project details

Shark Spotters, South Africa

Key objective

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.

Why is this important

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.

Aims & objectives

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.