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An Unusual View of Predation at Seal Island

written by Monique Fallows

A Great White shark up close around Seal Island, False Bay

Posted on Thursday, 12 July 2012

Seal Island, False Bay is home to the most intense Natural Predatory behaviour between Great White Sharks and Cape fur seals. Since 1996 Chris & our team have collected various data points from each predatory event. These events now number close to 7,500 and the overall success rate for the shark is just under 50%, extremely high compared to other predators.

We have to be very sensitive when working around these events so that we impact as little as possible on each event. This means we have to be very aware of seal movement so that we do not block their path or cause them to try use our boat as protection. It takes a lot of caution and vigilance to make sure all of this happens. Unfortunately on rare occasions we do get things wrong.

Yesterday morning at Seal Island we did not see an approaching group of seals while we were towing our fake-seal decoy and the seals headed straight for the safety of our boat. Once we realised what had happened we stopped our tow so that we could wait for them to move off.

As they did so, a patrolling Great white shark picked up on them a mere 3 meters from the boat.

I was on the viewing deck at the time so I had a very spectacular view of the whole event looking straight down into the water.

 

 

As I looked down I saw the white flash of a shark’s pure white underbelly as it propelled itself towards the surface.

The seals did a duck and a dive that we know is characteristic of an approaching shark. As I looked down I saw the white flash of a shark’s pure white underbelly as it propelled itself towards the surface. The shark was not in line with the seal so it had to deliberately change its course underwater and so flung itself sideways towards the fleeing seals. 

It then did a sudden deep bank with intense speed and then propelled itself upwards again in hot pursuit. The grace and agility of the shark was awesome and the view looking down into the water was unique to say the least. The speed and athleticism of the shark, and seals, was truly something to behold.

The sharks movement underwater can best be compare it to a F16 fighter plane twisting and diving in the air in perfect synchrony.

It also gave me an even greater respect to the seals who are able to half the time avoid this super predator doing what it has evolved to do so efficiently over time.

I have a feeling that this unique view may be one of my highlights of the 2012 Shark Season at Seal Island. 

And, the seals got away ….

 

 

 

 

Tags:

Great White Shark, Great White Shark Predation, Seal Island - False Bay

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