Cape tourism operators baffled by disappearance of Great White sharks

0
1472

Great White sharks – once the lure for many cage dive tourists – have completely disappeared from Cape Town’s False Bay.

The large apex predators scientifically known as Carcharodon carcharias was the shark species featured in the 1975 American blockbuster thriller film directed by Steven Spielberg, Jaws.

The City of Cape Town and the Shark Spotting Programme says the last Great White shark to be spotted in False Bay was 18 months ago.The Shark Spotting Programme, which has been monitoring Great White activity and behavioural ecology in False Bay since 2004, says in a statement that since 2010 and up to 2016, spotters recorded on average 205 sightings of Great White sharks a year.

This year they have spotted none.

Not a single Great White spotted in 2019

Tourism operators are baffled by the disappearance of the sharks. They acknowledge that since last year shark spotters have experienced a significant decline with only 50 sightings in 2018. This year, not a single Great White has been spotted both along the inshore area of False Bay or at Seal Island, historically an important feeding ground for Great White sharks. Neither has the Shark Spotters’ applied research programme detected any of the tagged Great Whites on their tracking receivers since 2017.

While no official reasons for the disappearance of Great Whites have been offered, the Shark Spotters Facebook page makes mention of the arrival of a specific ecotype of Orca In False Bay. According to the page entry it appears that the arrival of the orcas “have had a significant effect on the distribution of white sharks in our area”.

According to sharkspotters.org.za the only shark that poses a significant potential threat to water users is Carcharodon carcharias. They focus most of their attention on detecting this species. These sharks are easy to detect as they generally swim near the sea surface.

Shark spotters continue their search

Despite the absence of Great White sharks this year, Shark Spotters will continue to operate over the 2019/2020 summer period at the following beaches:

  • Fish Hoek
  • Clovelly
  • Kalk Bay
  • Muizenberg
  • Monwabisi; and
  • Caves at Kogel Bay

They will not operate at the following beaches any more:

  • Glencairn
  • The Hoek in Noordhoek; and
  • Danger Beach in St James

The Fish Hoek shark exclusion barrier will be deployed for the annual Spring Splash on 1 September 2019, over weekends, public holidays, and school holidays during October 2019, and April 2020; and daily from 1 November 2019 to 31 March 2020, weather permitting.

TourismUpdate.co.za reports that shark cage diving ecotourism operators, who would normally witness multiple individual sharks visiting their vessels and up to 30 seal predations daily, have not had a single sighting at Seal Island this year.

The website that promotes tourism to South Africa says further supporting evidence of the absence of Great Whites is the lack of any feeding or bite marks on the whale carcasses the City has removed from False Bay this year.

Great White sharks, through the ecotourism and documentary film making sectors, contribute significantly to Cape Town’s local economy. It remains uncertain whether the Great Whites have left False Bay for good, or whether this reduced presence is only short-term.