April 2008 Shark Bytes
Posted on Wednesday, 30 April 2008
Dear Shark Lovers!
Greetings from what has generally been a good sharking month.
We had a lot of pelagic shark trips planned but on all but two of these the weather did not allow us to get offshore. One of the trips in particular was very bumpy and was really on the threshold of going out.
On both trips we had very good sharks and in particular on the trip in the beginning of the month. By the end of the day we had approximately 20 blue sharks and 2 mako sharks. Both mako sharks stayed with us for most of the trip even though one was clearly more dominant over the other.
On the second trip we spent about 40 minutes waiting for sharks. Then within 5 minutes we picked up 4 blue sharks which stayed with us for the whole trip. Even though it was rough our guests still had a good dive in what was probably the best visibility of the season…blue water and 15-20 meters visibility.
The pelagic birds were also great on this trip and we saw 4 different species of albatross all of which spent time flying close to the boat for excellent views.
Great White Sharks
The Great white sharks at Seal Island have been up and down. At the beginning of April we were having solid sightings on every trip with good weather conditions. From our experience we have found April to go both ways in terms of sightings. April 2007 was exceptional and over all I have to say that April 2008 has been solid. In past years we have not seen sharks at all so it is a pretty unpredictable time.
We did have a run of about 4 days where we had large swells and unfortunately did not see any sharks. Time and time again those big swells prove to be part of the recipe on slow shark days.
With regards to natural predatory events we have noted a good number of scavenges on both dead or sick cape fur seal pups. This usually proves to be an interesting event to watch as the shark will usually approach the carcass cautiously before deciding on whether or not to make a meal of it. This scavenge event usually takes place over a much longer period than a predation on a healthy seal.
We have also seen a number of breaches and chases on healthy cape fur seals so we have the feeling that the season is building up and that the sharks are slowing starting to return to their winter feeding ground.
Old Friends Return
I have often mentioned in the past how much Chris & I love getting to know the individual sharks at Seal Island in terms of keeping records on them and learning each of their different personalities. To me this is the most rewarding aspect of working with great white sharks. Unfortunately this also have a down side as when these sharks do not return one almost always fears the worst.
During the 2007 season there were many sharks that did not come back to Seal Island, two of these being February and Schumi.
When we last saw February in 2006 she was a large 4.6 meters (just over 15 feet) and Schumi was a naughty teenage shark at about 3.5 meters (11.5 feet). In fact there is no surprise why she was named after Michael Schumacher! Her very fast and assertive behavior around the boat really kept us on our toes in terms of keeping the bait away from her.
During one of our trips at the beginning of April I received a highly excited phone call from Chris. He had just had February arrive at the boat. She has always been a very slow and relaxed shark and this encounter was no different. Of course the only difference was that she was now a good 5 meters in length (16.5 feet) and her bulk had massively enlarged since we last saw her in 2006. Even then she was considered a very big shark.
We are usually very lucky if we see a couple of 5 meter sharks in a season and interestingly we had an extremely brief pass from another 5 meter plus shark a few days after seeing February as well as a couple other very big 4 meter sharks.
Another interesting fact worthy of mention is that our records show sightings of February in 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006 and now 2008. So she has now had 2 two year breaks from not being sighted. Of course it is possible that she was there but never visited the boat. I do find this doubtful though as she has always been a very curious shark. Perhaps she likes to visit Australia???
We have also seen a significant growth with Schumi since her 2 year absence. She is now around 3.9 meters (13 feet). We have had 3 sightings of her on three different trips. During the best encounter she spent a good hour with us as she just slowing circled our boat, occasionally giving our bait an interested glance. This behavior from her is pretty abnormal as I have never encountered her in such a relaxed fashion. Believe me we were not complaining and it was just such a privilege to spend time with a very special animal.