April 2006 Shark Bytes
Posted on Sunday, 30 April 2006
Dear Shark Lovers
April is traditionally a month of a variety of sharks as it is towards to end of the pelagic shark season and sometimes the beginning of the white shark season at Seal Island.
I am very pleased to report that since almost the beginning of April we have started sighting great white sharks. Great white sharks are particularly seasonal animals and we definitely are not able to find them year round. We have noted that the great white sharks return to Seal Island to feed on Cape Fur Seals during the South African winter months. During these months the water temperature in False Bay cools down and no longer supports the migratory fish and other shark species that we think the sharks prefer to hunt. As these fish and other shark stocks can no longer be found the sharks have no option but to feed on the seals. Seal Island is 60 000 strong seal colony and an ideal hunting ground for the great white.
On each trip we have seen a minimum of two different sharks and as many as five different individuals on each trip. They have not stayed around the boat for long periods but we are happy just to get a glimpse of them!
We personally have not had any breaches on the seal decoy, but our colleague Rob, who also works at Seal Island, has had one. The good news is that on all the trips we have done thus far we have been seeing different sharks on each trip, so there seems to be good numbers of sharks coming and going around Seal Island.
In the last week we have also seen signs of sharks predating on seals. On one trip last week Chris & I were about a mile from arriving at the Island when a breaching shark was beautifully silhouetted against the golden skyline just before dawn. The shark proceeded with another 2 breaches and was successful in catching the seal. As we get more into winter we will be expecting to see a lot more of these events as the young of the year seals head out for their first feeding sorties.
One particular trip I would like to mention was with a British Family on a day trip. The four kids were extremely interested in nature and in particular the 9 year old peppered us with questions throughout the day! Shark wise it started off very slowly and at 12.30pm we barely glimpsed a shark feeding on a seal carcass. In fact as we got there we just saw the top of the shark’s tail going back into the water. We went back on anchor and the kids were so excited that they had seen a great white shark. Sometimes one gets a group of people that we particularly want to have a great day. As the time wore on Chris & I gave ourselves 5 minutes before leaving. Out of nowhere we suddenly had 2 sharks around the boat and they both stayed with us for a good 30 minutes. We have never seen children so appreciative of nature and they were just ecstatic at seeing the sharks.
We get a large number of emails from parents whose kids love sharks and even kids themselves that want to learn about them. It is fantastic that so many kids are being encouraged to learn more about this greatly miss-understood animal, and who knows, maybe in the future this will go a long way to helping the conservation of this species.
Towards the end of the month we have had a large patch of dirty green water move into the pelagic shark area and subsequently have been seeing more blue sharks than mako sharks. The water temperature has also cooled down to about 17 degrees Celcius, another sign that winter is approaching.