Date: 12 January 2010
Location: Fish Hoek Beach, Western Cape, South Africa
Conditions: Bad water visibility, gail force winds, surface water extremely choppy with waves and white water
The Save Our Seas Foundation and the Save Our Seas Shark Centre send our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the man involved in this incident.
The Save Our Seas Foundation and City of Cape Town Shark Spotters were on duty at Fish Hoek Beach yesterday afternoon when a 39-year-old Zimbabwean man was fatally bitten by what appears to have been a great white shark. He was standing in chest-deep water about 50m from the beach.
At the time of the incident the Shark Spotter’s black flag was flying because the visibility of the water was bad, making it difficult, if not impossible, to determine if a shark was in the area. The first indication of a shark in the area was when the shark surfaced seconds before the bite.
The shark flag (white flag with a black shark on it) was raised shortly after the incident and all ocean users were called out of the water. The Fish Hoek and other beaches along the False Bay coast remain closed to swimmers.
A Shark Spotter raising the Black Flag (Photo: Cheryl-Samantha Owen)
Great white shark scientist Alison Kock, from the Save Our Seas Foundation’s Shark Centre in Kalk Bay, said the shark was presumably a white shark. The search and recovery operation, started yesterday afternoon, continues today.
Meanwhile, the Save Our Seas Foundation research boat is currently tracking a 3.5 metre female great white shark in False Bay as she swims in the vicinity of Fish Hoek. The research boat, which Alison spends most days on learning more about white sharks, has been out since first light.
Alison, together with Cape Town’s disaster management, issued a warning on the morning of Monday 11th January urging beachgoers to be vigilant and to be on the lookout for white sharks after a recorded spike in shark sightings over the last few weeks. Great white sharks are known to appear along the in-shore waters of False Bay during the peak summer months. In January this year 30 sharks have thus far been spotted between Muizenberg and St James.
Putting it into perspective
Sharks are apex predators and as such play a vital role in maintaining healthy oceans. When we enter the water we enter their territory. Shark bites, however, are extremely rare. The last shark bite in Cape Town’s waters was in 2007 and the last shark bite fatality was in 2004, yet thousands of people swim in False Bay every day.
This festive season has seen over 1,000 killed and over 10,000 people seriously injured by road accidents in South Africa. This shark bite fatality is tragic and our condolences go out to the family and friends of the man, but please keep shark bites in perspective.
The Shark Spotters programme and the research by Alison Kock have proved invaluable in collecting information that is used to benefit people and minimize risks from shark bites. By monitoring white shark activity we are able to keep track of where the sharks are moving and the amount of time they are spending in-shore. This enables us to warn of a possible increase in risk to ocean users from shark bites.
For more information on the latest shark sightings and research visit:
The public are encouraged to report any sightings of white sharks to the Shark Spotting Programme through their website.
The Shark Flags Up on 12th January
Black Flag: Shark spotter is on duty but the visibility is poor. Difficult to determine if there are sharks in the area.
Shark Flag (white flag with a black shark on it): A shark is currently in the area. Swimmers are advised to stay out of the water until this flag is lowered and the siren has stopped sounding.
Shark Safety Tips
Use the ocean in areas where the shark spotters are on duty
Talk to the shark spotters every time you visit the beach
Find out about recent sightings, shark activity, and visibility conditions
Learn what the four flag warning system and siren means
People are reminded that no safety measure is 100 % effective and that although the Shark Spotting programme has been successful, it itself is not 100% effective and remains vulnerable to human error, weather conditions and water quality issues.
· Do not swim in bad visibility
· Do not swim, surf or surfski when birds, dolphins or seals are feeding nearby
· Do not swim, surf or surfski near where trek-netting, fishing or spear fishing is taking place.
· Do not swim in deep water beyond the breakers
· Do not swim if you are bleeding
· Do not swim near river mouths
· Do not swim, surf or surfski at night
· Do not swim, surf or surfski if there has been a cetacean stranding nearby
· If a shark has recently been sighted in an area where no shark spotters are present, consider using another beach for the day
· First time visitors to beach areas should ask the local law enforcement official, life guards or locals about the area
· Obey beach officials if told to leave the water
· For those people kayaking or surfskiing far out to the sea, consider paddling in groups and staying close together (in a diamond shape)
· Consider using a personal shark shield when you go surfing or kayaking
· Pay attention to any shark signage on beaches
For more information and press enquiries please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Shark attack could not have been avoided
Shark Research Update 14 January – SOSF research boat continues to track great white shark
Does the local shark cage diving industry affect the behaviour of sharks in the Fish Hoek area?