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Shark Bytes

December 2006 Shark Bytes

written by Monique Fallows

Posted on Sunday, 31 December 2006

Happy New Year to all of you and hope that you all had a festive holiday season!

 

December has been a quiet month for us, and for me in particular as I have been unable to go most of the trips. Chris has undertook a number of pelagic shark trips and although there have not been any fireworks he was still seeing mako and blue sharks on most trips.

 

The only trip that I was able to do in December happened to be the highlight of the month. We could not go too far offshore due to adverse weather conditions. This usually means that we do not find clear blue water but the upside is that we have a greater chance of seeing a variety of shark species.

 

On our arrival we spotted large shoals of yellowtail (amberjack) and when we arrived at the scene we were surrounded by huge shoals of them. Looking down into the water the sea was just a mass of fish and thick walls of yellowtail could be seen as far as our visibility allowed.

 

After a short wait for sharks we had a very shy approach from a bronze whaler shark (copper shark). This visit was followed by more shy visits from at least 4 other bronze whalers. It was very difficult to get them to stay around but within an hour the bronze whalers were replaced by a small blue shark that was almost immediately followed by a mako. Both sharks stayed around long enough for all our guests to dive with. When they departed the bronze whalers from earlier finally seemed to have built up courage and a friend that was with us had a very exciting dive as 4 bronze whalers decided to compete for the bait at the same time!

 

On the boat trip back to Simons Town we noticed that the weather conditions were perfect for exploring a number of caves in the Cape Point Nature Reserve. These caves are only accessible by boat and it is not very often that there is such small swell that allows one to dive in the caves.

the sea was just a mass of fish and thick walls of yellowtail could be seen as far as our visibility allowed

As we ran along the edge of the cliffs we came across a small dark shape swimming on the surface. We were surprised and extremely excited to find that is was a 1 meter long smooth hammerhead. As we began looking around we spotted another 4 hammerheads, all swimming on the surface. In all our years on the sea this was a first for us to see hammerheads in this area. I guess the water temperature and other environmental conditions were just perfect for them to be here, and we were fortunate to be there on the right day! We have not seen them subsequent to this.

 

After this we all went for an exploratory snorkel in the caves and although we saw very little marine life it was just great to be able to enter the caves and have that experience!

 

Chris & I have visited our Spotted-gully shark spot a number of times and have been seeing these sharks on a regular basis. Sometimes there have been very few of them but on one occasion we saw up the 30 individual sharks. We have always found them to be very wary and when we dive with them we basically have to float up to them and not move at all. Even if we breathe too loudly through the snorkel they skittle off.

 

With regards to the work that we do with the treknet fishermen on the beach close to us, it has been a very quiet summer so far. Our aim when we observe this activity is to tag and release any shark bycatch as well as other restricted fish species.

 

The fishing has been very poor and needless to say very few sharks have been caught as well. In fact we have not had one large shark. The sharks that are most frequently caught are bronze whalers,  ragged tooth sharks and smooth hound sharks.

 

The smooth hound sharks were in the past the most numerous bycatch and incidentally are also one of the main prey species for the white shark during the summer months.

 

I think if we have seen 10 it is a lot. In years gone by a few hundred in a month would be normal. All with the absence of the larger fish species, this is very worrying.

 

We will continue to monitor the nets during January as well as having a fair number of pelagic shark trips planned.

 

For Photos of the Month we have put up a number of images that are highlights of 2006. They have not been up before so we hope that you enjoy looking at them.

 

Until next month,

 

Best wishes

Monique Fallows

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