Shark Spotters

  • Sharks
Years funded
  • 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024
  • 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 landlocked Nepal I was always passionate about wildlife and conservation, but my interest in the marine environment did not develop until I first came to Cape Town in 2004. After spending time as a research assistant in Zambia and completing a degree in zoology at Southampton University, I came to Cape Town to study the Chacma baboon for my Honours thesis. I fell in love with the area and managed a range of environmental programmes here before starting at Shark Spotters in 2008. Now as the CEO, I am responsible for the management, growth and strategic development...

PROJECT LOCATION : Cape Town, South Africa
Related News
By Dian Spear, 19th August 2021
Shark risk in South Africa
Perceptions and management of shark risk in South Africa Gill nets were first deployed to catch sharks off Durban’s beachfront in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) in South Africa in 1952 in response to seven fatal shark bites that occurred at Durban beaches between 1943 and 1951. People…
Related Blogs
By Adetola Adebowale, 8th March 2024
Microplastics pollution and sharks: how are sharks affected?
Aside from oil spills, algae bloom, and chemical contaminants that are known to pollute our ocean, a persistent type of pollutant that has gained significant global attraction since the late 20th century is microplastics. What exactly are microplastics? Microplastics are tiny fragments of plastic that…
By Jamila Janna, 22nd November 2023
A Decade of Fish Hoek’s Shark Exclusion Net
The award-winning Fish Hoek shark exclusion barrier, first installed in 2013, has been successfully managing bather and shark safety in the area ever since.   On sight early in the morning at Fish Hoek beach are the Shark Spotters net crew, guided by Field Manager…
By Sesethu Jelwana, 28th July 2023
Learning from waste
How Shark Spotters uses single-use plastic for marine education Have you ever wondered where all the plastic we use ends up? Well, of the 400 million tons produced annually, about 14 million tons end up in the ocean. That is 3,5% of plastic, which may…
By Jamila Janna and Brandon Beukes, 23rd May 2023
Tackling sci-comm at Stellenbosch University
“The difference between science and the arts is not that they are different sides of the same coin even or even different parts of the same continuum, but rather, they are manifestations of the same thing.” ― Mae Jemison Science Communication – an oldie but…
By Juanita van Baalen, 19th April 2023
My experience as a WIL Student at Shark Spotters
I have always had a passion for the ocean and marine animals since I was a child. I still remember the first time I went to the beach, and I instantly got blown away by its beauty. I decided from a young age that I…
By Jamila Janna, 14th March 2023
From Cape Town to Plett
Expanding Shark Spotters’ training and education programme   Plettenberg Bay’s aqua-blue ocean and picturesque expanses of sandy beach make it undoubtedly one of South Africa’s most popular local holiday destinations. Residents and visitors alike are drawn to the natural wonder of the abundant marine life…
By Sarah Waries, 30th November 2022
Sharks Spotters scout Plett for spotting potential
Five sites identified for implementation before the Festive season! “None of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.” – Mother Teresa After Shark Spotters was officially invited to…
By Sarah Waries, 22nd September 2022
Unpacking the epic battle between sharks and orcas in South Africa
A significant change has taken place in the pecking order of South Africa’s marine predators over the last few years, with great white sharks, the previous undisputed ‘kings of the sea’, being unceremoniously (and pretty viciously) displaced from the top by a pair of orca…
By Jamila Janna, 8th June 2022
Ulwandle Lwethu. Ons See. Our Ocean.
With its beauty below and above the water, False Bay is unlike any other bay in the world! The intoxicating kelp forests, vibrant rocky shores and calming sandy beaches are home to South Africa’s extraordinary, witty and weird marine biodiversity. They are also a source…
By Jamila Janna, 29th September 2021
Celebrating False Bay’s Marine Protected Areas: our marine playground!
Undeniable is the beauty of South Africa’s oceans, but beyond that marvel is their diversity. Our oceans are, in their own right, a host to their own rainbow nation. For as long as we have been documenting our natural history in journals, marine resource conservation…
By Taryn Van Neel and Sarah Waries, 27th August 2021
Team building for social and environmental change.
It’s not just fun and games. At Shark Spotters, we are passionate about creating employment opportunities for people from marginalized communities in our operating areas. The tragic legacy of Apartheid in South Africa has resulted in high levels of unemployment, with over 11 million people…
By Tamlyn Engelbrecht, 25th December 2020
Bringing education to life
Proof that one person really can make all the difference   As tempted as I was to kick this off with some famous quote by a legendary historical figure about the value and importance of education, I will resist that urge. Mostly because I think…
By Sarah Waries, 20th December 2019
Spotters ready for summer season
Shark Spotters employs 40 people from previously disadvantaged communities close to our operating beaches. In preparation for the summer season, the team shared what being a spotter means to them and their top tips on how to #BeSharkSmart this festive season. From the whole spotting…
By Sarah Waries, 17th December 2019
Shark Spotters summer training
Enhancing conservation through skills development and awareness. Effective conservation of our natural resources depends on having adequately trained people with the passion and skills necessary to protect our fragile environment. At Shark Spotters, we focus on employing individuals from disadvantaged communities in our operating areas…
By Toby Rogers and Tamlyn Engelbrecht, 1st December 2019
Forget gold, we are all about bronze this season…
The bronze whaler or copper shark (Carcharhinus brachyurus) may not be a household name for many of us unfamiliar with the lesser known shark species that occur in South Africa’s coastal waters. After all, their reputation does not precede them quite as dramatically as that…
By Sarah Waries, 18th October 2019
Who is responsible for keeping you safe from sharks?
Summer is nearly here in the Southern hemisphere, and for those of us living on the coast, that means only one thing… it’s beach time! Whatever your activity of choice, be it surfing, swimming, paddling or diving, there is nothing better than cooling off and…
By Sarah Waries, 11th October 2019
The power of partnerships: celebrating 10 years of SOSF support
The poet John Wells’ said ‘No man is an island’, and this could not be more true for the conservation world, where partnerships are vital for success, and in particular, long-term, sustainable conservation efforts rely on multi-stakeholder cooperation and coordination over extended time periods. Successful…
By Tamlyn Engelbrecht, 30th August 2019
Why the world needs more nerds – and other lessons learned at my first overseas conference
“Flights and accommodation are booked!” I declared excitedly to my colleague. “Hmm?” She replied distractedly, not glancing up from her keyboard. “What for? Your holiday to the UK?” I rolled my eyes. “No! For the ICFT!” I said, all but clapping my hands together with…
By Sarah Waries, 2nd May 2019
Shark Spotters’ year in review | 2018
Although 2018 was a slow year on the shark scene, Shark Spotters have stayed at the top of their game watching over Cape Town’s busiest beaches. The organisation continues to use innovation as well as ongoing training to keep our team in top shape and…
By Tamlyn Engelbrecht, 25th February 2019
Are sharks being attacked by killer whales off Cape Town’s coast?
Large, predatory sharks occupy the top of ocean food chains, where they play important roles in maintaining diverse and healthy ecosystems. The loss of these predators can therefore have significant impacts on ecosystems. For a long time broadnose sevengill sharks have occupied the apex of the food…
By Sarah Waries, 18th February 2019
Shark Spotters and PatternLab launch new automated shark detection project
After 15 years of using trained observers (spotters) to successfully reduce the risk of shark bites in Cape Town, the Shark Spotters program is launching a new research project aimed at creating an automated shark spotting system that will enhance their existing pioneering sustainable shark…
By Tamlyn Engelbrecht, 11th February 2019
Drone footage of curious bronzie off Fish Hoek beach
Bronze whalers (Carcharhinus brachyurus), or bronzies as they are known locally, are a common species in the coastal and shelf waters around South Africa. They are relatively large, reaching a maximum length of just over 3 metres, and feed on a range of prey, including…
By Sarah Waries, 22nd January 2019
Five years on
  There is nothing false about the sense of security provided by the Fish Hoek beach shark exclusion net. The term “shark net” is used loosely to describe many mesh-based shark attack mitigation measures in place around the world. However, it is important to realise…
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.