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Shark Bytes

September 2005 Shark Bytes

written by Monique Fallows

Posted on Friday, 30 September 2005

Dear Readers

 

This is going to be a short newsletter as there is little shark activity to report on from my side. In years gone by the middle of September usually signals the end of the great white shark season at Seal Island. This year was no different and by about the 10th of September shark activity was done to almost zero. We did actually have good sharks at the beginning of the month seeing a fair amount of predatory activity as well as having sharks approach our boat. From the 10th onwards we did a few trips where we did not see a single shark. On Saturday we had a group on the boat who knew up front that it was going to be difficult to find sharks and I must confess we did not expect to see anything ourselves.

 

But, as we arrived Chris happened to be looking in the right spot at the right time and saw a breach. We approached the area where it happened and concluded that a shark had been successful in catching a seal as there was a slick on the surface and the gulls were taking advantage by feeding on small bits of fat. Although it is now well into spring in Cape Town the weather on Saturday morning was of a typical winter’s day, light breeze from the north, overcast and the pressure low, all signaling good conditions for sharks to hunt seals at Seal Island.

 

After this first event we were all watching for further action. As I was watching a particular area a shark popped up on the surface and proceeded to feed on a seal carcass. It could only have been a sub surface attack as I definitely did not see any chase on the surface. After this we saw another two successful feeding bouts. What Chris & I found so interesting was that at all three events the sharks really took their time in consuming the seal carcass. During the height of the season competition at the Island is so high with so many sharks being present that successful feeding is usually over in a matter of seconds. So why on Saturday did all three sharks almost lazily feed? We had a thought that perhaps because there are so few sharks at the Island they did not feel there was a threat of losing their meal to another shark. We did observe at least one event this season where a shark successful in making a kill lost its meal to another larger shark.

 

Now that the sharks seem to have on the whole departed from Seal Island they will start to follow different feeding patterns. As we approach summer warmer currents will move into False Bay bringing with it migratory summer fish and shark species. The white sharks seem to prefer feeding on these alternatives and will from now on be moving with the fish and sharks. In variably the fish and sharks are moving closer to shore and all can be easily spotted from vantage spots on the mountain. Both on Saturday and Sunday we stopped on Boyes drive, which is a magnificent drive passing through Kalk Bay Mountain that overlooks Muizenberg. Both times we spotted a white shark cruising about 2 kilometers offshore. At this same spot there is a dedicated shark spotter specifically looking for sharks and should a shark be in close proximity to surfers and bathers the water is cleared. A lot of the time it is very difficult to easily spot sharks due to weather conditions but at least it is a proactive way to try and prevent shark investigations. This shark behavior is completely normal and they have probably been patrolling this general area for thousands of years. So, do not believe what the media will be telling you!

 

 

Reflecting back on the 2005 shark season I can surmise that it has probably been one of the best shark viewing seasons yet. The season started off with awesome viewing of sharks around our boat. Most often there would be more than one shark at the boat at a time which gave us great opportunities to see the different sharks reacting to one another. And in July and August we observed a tremendous amount of hunting behavior.

 

But I have to say that my two highlights this year were seeing Rasta and Cuz again. Rasta has grown into a very big Lady and at about 4,3 meters she was one of the biggest sharks we saw this year. It is not often that we see these big sharks at the Island as we suppose that the bigger sharks are feeding on different prey items in different areas. I would not be surprised if we do not see Rasta again, in fact I am expecting not to see her again. So, be safe my Big Friend and I hope you go onto breeding many healthy sharks!

 

Cuz is at about 3,4 meters so I am sure we still have many years to still see him. He is named Cuz because he behaves in the same relaxed manner as Rasta so we aptly named him Rasta’s Cousin! We did not see him on many occasions but he did have one exceptional day with him where he stayed with us for most of the day, kept rubbing up the side of the boat and of his own accord put his head out of the water on numerous occasions. 

 

With the season being over we have spent a large amount of time this month  preparing for an expedition up to Mozambique for which we are leaving in 2 weeks time. As always we have a long wish list of sharks to see. The shark I most want to see is not even a “toothy” shark, but a placid Zebra shark! It is a tough ask but I am going to be doing a lot of diving to give myself the best chance of seeing it. On the big shark list we are most hoping to see an Oceanic white tip. When we were in the area two years we were lucky enough to see four of them, but I know that again we are going to need a lot of luck and time. We missed seeing a Tiger shark last time but also hold out hope for this one!

 

So you won’t get an update at the end of October but in November I hope to be able to write an action packed newsletter for you all.

 

Until then…

Best wishes

Monique Fallows

 

 

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