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.
‘My goal is to be a marine biologist.’ This is the hand-made banner that I displayed above my desk all through high school. I have always wanted to be a marine biologist and was fortunate to have parents who fostered my love for the ocean. When I was very young I used to accompany my dad on boat trips to harvest crayfish. We would spend hours at sea, deploying nets and waiting for the crayfish to climb inside. When we retrieved the nets, it wasn’t only crayfish that we found, but small shysharks too. The little sharks would curl up...
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.
How do we learn about marine food chains when the animals are so difficult to observe? Stable isotope analysis (SIA) shows us what animals eat. Diana will use a new method that combines SIA and amino acids and analyze tissue samples of captive sharks and rays to get a more accurate picture of how this method can be used with wild populations.
Did you know that sea turtles can get cancer? Sometimes tumours become so large that they inhibit the turtles swimming, feeding or vision. At the Sea Turtle Hospital, David is using genetics to learn which human anti-cancer drugs can be used to treat turtles.