March 2005 Shark Bytes
Posted on Thursday, 31 March 2005
I have a lot to write about this month as not only have we seen a lot but the sharks have also been a great source of news in the Media especially in the UK.
During March our Sharks of Southern Africa expedition took place and I am delighted to say that we saw 10 different shark species in 14 days. These included mako’s, blue’s, smooth hammerheads, bronze whalers, great white (just one!), cow sharks, spotted-gully sharks and 3 different small endemic sharks. We had a fantastic group to share this with and we hope to undertake this trip again next year.
Many people have emailed us about the incident in Gansbaai where a white shark supposedly attacked a cage-diver. I actually had not heard about it and after some investigation I discovered that the incident took place in November last year. I also saw the video footage of what happened and was absolutely shocked at how the story had been so dramatized. The British tourist, Mark Currie, had decided to get into the cage in November last year when a large shark was around the boat. His version is that the shark was the same animal that attacked Tyna Webb two weeks before and was now blood-thirsty which is why the shark tried to attack him! From watching the footage my opinion is that the operator who was handling the bait line tried to pull the shark close to the cage so that the diver could get a close up view. The handler pulled the bait away at the very last moment and the shark, instead of getting hold of the bait, bit the buoy that was on top of the cage. The shark obviously got a fright and thrashed until it was free of the cage, the buoy burst and the cage lost some of its buoyancy. Another point of interest is that Mr. Currie was in the cage wearing just a mask, not even a snorkel! By law all cage divers are supposed to be qualified scuba divers. Cage diving is extremely easy diving. You just basically put on a tank and sit in the cage. But if something should in the highly unlikely event go wrong I feel very strongly that the diver needs to be competent in the water. Mr. Currie was able to get out of the cage unharmed. Unfortunately now that He has taken His story to the newspapers no-one is saying how the shark was handled badly or the tourist was not equipped to dive, the shark is now a Blood thirsty Man-Eater. So what can I say, Well done Mr. Currie, you have got your 15 minutes of fame to the detriment of the shark.
Four days after the Currie story broke a British holiday maker and surfer was bitten at Noordhoek beach while surfing last Tuesday. Very fortunately he was not severely injured and only sustained lacerations to his calf. He had seen the white shark approach him and managed to fend it off. The shark did not press home the attack and I admire the surfer for having the presence of mind defend himself so aptly. The media in Cape Town has not hyped the attack too much but I hear that the British Tabloids are having a field day. I even heard the Cape Town sharks are now targeting British tourists! I guess if sharks are supposed to have so much “human intelligence” they should also be allowed to make mistakes just like we do.
On our side we have had a very good month and have seen a great variety of sharks. Right in the beginning of the month the False Bay waters were very promising for the treknetters to catch sharks. There are two different crews that work along Muizenberg beach and they were both pulling their nets at the same time one morning. We had to decide which crew to watch and decided to stay with the more successful crew. As soon as we saw that they had not caught any sharks we raced down the beach to the other net which had just been brought in. The crew leader came to us and said that he had just released a spotted ragged-tooth pup. The best news was that the shark was released but we were absolutely gutted to have missed seeing the shark. Ragged-tooth’s are not caught very often and I have only ever seen one. It seems like this is our bogey shark as we always seen to miss them. We went down to the nets again that afternoon and were kept very busy, and excited, when 3 large bronze whalers and one very big Diamond Ray were caught in the same net. It is absolute mayhem when this happens as we are trying to get the animals measured, tagged and released as quickly as possible and of course they are thrashing around like crazy when they are out of the water. There have been no sharks caught since then and we can see that the season is definitely changing. The migratory fish and sharks are leaving as the water temperature cools down and we have even seen the first white shark at Seal Island since October last year. I can never get over the feeling of seeing a white shark. It is such an impressive animal and it has a presence about it like no other. Needless to say I am really looking forward to the next Seal Island season with them.