Posted on Thursday, 9 July 2015
The last time you heard from us there wasn’t too much good news to report on. Sometime around mid-April the great white sharks departed Seal Island and it was a long 6 week wait for them to return.
Wow, what a challenging time it was, cancelling over 50 trips during what should be building up to the peak time of our season. Nature has once again reminded us that we really have no control over anything and that we just have to patient and respect the situation.
Seal Island, South Africa News
Eventually during the first week of June the sharks started to make their first brief appearances around the boat. Since then it has been a sort of stop start affair with no rhythm to the activity. Some trips we have had good shark interactions around the boat and on others it has been slow. This has made it pretty tough to advise clients on what to expect as on each trip we head out on, we really have no idea on what to anticipate and expect.
We did have a hot little patch in the last week of June where we had a number of mornings of between 8 and 14 predatory events. Two of the mornings in particular were extremely exciting with 4 to 6 events happening just within a few minutes of each other. These moments are always intense and with many small groups of seals returning to Seal Island we didn’t know where to look.
The decoy has also been working well and we have had a number of spectacular breaches reminding us all what makes Seal Island, South Africa so special! One particular decoy tow saw a small shark of around 2.5 meters breach three times within a few moments. It’s quite possible that this shark has just begun hunting seals and didn’t manage to work out that the decoy was not actually what it was looking for. On 99% of our decoy breaches the shark will immediately taste it is not a real seal and will spit it out the moment it makes contact.
We still unfortunately have very dirty water in False Bay and big patches of red tide can still be seen. The presence of the “bad” water (as explained in April Shark Bytes) is most likely still having an effect on our shark sightings. But, we are feeling hopeful as beautiful clear water is currently present in the Partridge Point and Millar’s Point areas… we just need it to push through to Seal Island now.
As I am sure you can read between the lines, it has been a tough season thus far. There is one major difference between this season and past seasons which I would like to briefly chat about and that is how “shark culture” seems to be playing a role in how the 2015 season is playing out.
Different shark culture is a theory that Chris & I have spent a lot of time thinking about and after looking through our data set it is something that is starting to make sense. Culture does not mean a different species, but rather a different way of living, just as South Africans live differently to say Moroccans!
I always stress that we are not scientists but rather naturalists that take a very close interest in all behaviour at Seal Island, collecting data daily for the past 18 years. It’s amazing the patterns you can see from such a huge data base of information.
Each season we seem to have stand out sharks that will stay for periods longer than two weeks and for as long as four months (as in the case of Deux Rossi). These are sharks we come to know very well as they come up to the boat on an almost daily basis and are normally very interactive. Some of the sharks we even deem “Seal Island regulars” and we see them season to season. Our longest recorded sharks are “Cuz” and “Shy Guy” who were both recorded at Seal Island in 2014 for the 12th year in a row… pretty amazing!
Then, there are other sharks that seem to spend very limited time at Seal Island of perhaps only a day or two at a time. We’ll see these sharks for maybe one trip only, and don’t seem to record them again.
So, it appears to be two very different set of behaviours of long stays and short stays. Interestingly, our regulars are not sharks that the operators in Gansbaai recognise so this also leaves us wondering if they are Seal Island specialists; it’s a big statement to make, but certainly food for thought!
This all leads me to back to my initial point of how different the 2015 season has been with no long stay sharks seeming to be in the picture. Leading up to mid-April there was not much evidence of this and post the return of the sharks in the last few weeks there have definitely been no long stay sharks either.
Anyway, things out there can change overnight so perhaps we get some good water coming back into the area providing more suitable conditions for the sharks and the season will progress as normal.
This situation has also made me sit back and think to myself how fussy we have all become, as well as how we all are getting into the pattern of expecting things on demand. This is not reality, and we all need to check ourselves. The great white shark is an extremely rare animal with recent estimates putting the worldwide population at as few as 3000 to 4000 animals. However you see a shark, treasure the moment and take it all in, no matter how short the viewing time, it is always a privilege.
The Gansbaai area is also experiencing slow shark sightings. The sharks that they are seeing are all close to shore and at a time where most of the sharks should be around Dyer Island hunting seals, there are virtually nil. Something major is at play…
Chris has been away for most of the month so unfortunately we don’t have too many images to share. We did spend a lot of time during the no-shark period enjoying the common dolphins that were in False Bay so I hope you have all enjoyed the scenic dolphin images.
For those of you who are interested in Orcas and Orca conservation, I recently interviewed Dr Ingrid Visser, an orca researcher from New Zealand. There are also some great links to check out if you are interested in the fight against orcas in captivity.
Chris also shares some advice on Marine Photography and Jimi chats about Sharks vs Seals…. Or is it the other way around?!
We really enjoy interacting with our readers so please leave a post if you have comments or opinions to share.
A New Apex Expedition
Some exciting news is that we have just launched a new expedition to Isla Guadalupe in 2015 and 2016.
Guadalupe offers amazing great white shark diving opportunities in clear blue water, as well as the chance to see seals and sharks interacting underwater.
Well, thats all our news from Seal Island. Looking forward to what July will bring!
Until next month
To read our last three Shark Bytes follow the links below:
April 2015 Shark Bytes
March 2015 Shark Bytes
February 2015 Shark Bytes