INTERVIEWING THOSE INVOLVED
Fish Hoek Beach Shark Spotters:
On the day we spoke to them, the shark spotters on duty were Eric Myeko and Reagan Matthews. Shark spotters are employed by an organization called Coast Care.
Their training consists of sitting on the mountain with an experienced spotter for 7 days, who assesses the skills of the spotter-in-training.
To shark spot, a shark spotter sits in a small hut perched on a mountain and searches for sharks, while someone at the beach changes the flag when necessary.
When the spotter on the mountain sees a shark, he activates the siren and marks where the shark was on a map, and other details on a separate sheet of paper, including weather and water conditions as well as the time.
The equipment consists of a pair of sunglasses to reduce the glare on the water, binoculars that are only used once a presumed shark has been sighted, a radio to contact other spotters and a battery powered remote to activate the loud siren on the beach.
The typical day of a shark spotter consists of a two shift system - one from 07:00 to 13:00 and the other from 13:00 to 19:00.
A month can go by without seeing a shark, or there can be a shark 3 times daily in the busier shark season, around November and December. During the South African winter months, the sharks tend to stay closer to Seal Island as the seals are breeding from May through to October.
The clearer the water and the air the easier it is to see sharks. But often the sea is rough or the light shines from a certain direction so the spotters cannot sea deep into the water. They then raise the black flag.
The spotters think that the system is effective, yet more spotters are needed. They do not think shark nets would be a good idea as they also entangle many other marine organisms, perhaps even those who use the water for sport.
One spotter told of how a shark had gone frightfully close to a surf skier. The skier was close to the beach when the spotter saw the shark and quickly activated the siren. Only then did the surf skier notice the shark and scurried to shore.
More about the shark spotters @ www.sharkspotters.org.za
Fish Hoek Surf Life Saving Club and Fish Hoek Shark Spotter Fund
Mr. Clive Wakeford
When asked what he felt about the shark situation, Mr. Wakeford told us that it was quite worrying, but they were doing the best they could to prevent attacks because of the shark spotters. An electronic barrier technology was being worked on in the province of KwaZulu Natal to protect entire bays, and they were thinking of introducing it in Fish Hoek.
The Shark Spotter Fund relies mostly on the Cape Town municipality for funds, yet businesses and other people from within Fish Hoek also give monthly donations. Afterall, this is a beach community that relies on tourists and beachgoers as a major part of the economy.
If there was a shark attack, it is in the life savers First Aid and Trauma training to react to shark attacks.
There is a dedicated group of swimmers who swim everyday of the year. They were nervous and uncomfortable swimming with sharks, but they still swim, staying in shallow water. The general feeling is that the shark spotters are doing a good job. The majority of people said that shark nets were not a good idea, although one said that that they were. They say that all that can be done, is being done, although an electronical barrier would work well. After a recent shark attack, the swimmers stopped swimming to a bouy, but rather to a closer mark. They suggested that they couldn't see the flag while the wind is blowing inland so it should rather be a ball.
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