Summertime usually yields a seasonal increase in the inshore presence of great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias). While sharks are present in our waters all year round, we appeal to all to be particularly vigilant during the summer months, when inshore activity tends to intensify.
Research Director for the Shark Spotters programme, Alison Kock, says scientific evidence confirms that sharks change their habitat seasonally. In winter they tend to group near seal colonies, whereas in summer they tend towards coastal inshore areas. Records indicate that over the last six years, the highest number of interactions between ‘white’ sharks and recreational beach users has occurred between mid August and the end of March. This seasonal change is not a recent phenomenon, nor is it unique to False Bay. Similar behaviour has also been recorded in Gansbaai, Mossel Bay and abroad in California.
Some areas pose more of a danger for certain activities than others. Kayakers and surf skiers are urged to be especially cautious in the area between Sunnycove and Glencairn Beach; while surfers and swimmers should be vigilant in the areas between Sunrise Beach and Strandfontein, as well as the Maccassar Beach area.
Swimmers should always use beaches where shark spotters are on duty. They are urged to take the time to speak to the spotters to find out about recent sightings and activity, as well as current conditions which have an impact on shark spotting.
The public are requested to familiarise themselves with the new shark spotting signs, detailing the four flag warning system. The updates to shark signage mean that:
- A red flag indicates a Shark Alert. This flag will be flown during periods of increased shark activity, after a shark has recently been spotted in the area and the beach cleared, or when conditions are conducive to high shark activity.
- A green flag means that the spotting conditions are good and no sharks have been seen.
- A black flag means that the spotting conditions are poor, but no sharks have been seen.
- A white flag with a black shark diagram means that a shark is currently near the beach, and beach users must get out of the water. A siren is sounded and the white flag is raised.
During the summer season, all beaches will have a shark-smart sign, while beaches with spotters on duty will also have shark spotting signs. Shark spotting signs provide information on when the last sighting occurred, the flag warning system, operational hours, and updated daily spotting conditions. The Jagger Walk area in Fish Hoek has been sign posted as a high risk area.
In addition, the public should be aware of the use of a siren or air horn which is used to sound warnings to clear the beach.
Shark spotting programmes are operational at the following areas:
- Muizenberg Beach: Seven days a week from 08:00 – 18:00
- St James Beach and Kalk Bay: Seven days a week from 08:00 – 18:00
- Fish Hoek Beach: Seven days a week from 08:00 – 18:00
- Noordhoek (The Hoek): Seven days a week from 08:00 – 18:00
From the beginning of October, the afternoon shift is extended to 19:00. All morning times remain the same, except for Fish Hoek which runs from 07:00 – 19:00.
During the peak summer season the Shark Spotting programme will be extended to additional areas, namely Clovelly and Glencairn.
Regular and up to date information is available on the Shark Spotters’ website: www.sharkspotters.org.za
Shark safety tips
If people exercise caution and are aware of their environment, the risk of attack can be lowered. To reduce the risk of attack:
- Do not swim, surf or surf ski when birds, dolphins or seals are feeding nearby.
- 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 surf ski near areas where trek netting, fishing or spear fishing is taking place.
- Do not swim, surf or surf ski at night.
- 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 surf skiing far out to the sea, consider paddling in groups and staying close together (in a diamond formation).
- Consider using a personal shark shield when you go surfing or kayaking.
- Pay attention to any shark signage on beaches.
Flag warning system [PDF 454 KB]