Shark Bytes March 2017
Posted on Wednesday, 22 March 2017
Please forgive my silence over the past 2 months. An exciting but heavy travel schedule means we have been out of the office for most of the year thus far but the disappointing news is that the Great white sharks have not as yet returned to Seal Island this season. Despite this, there has still been some excitement with a rare Elephant Seal visitor to the Island and an orca sighting off Cape Point.
Seal Island and False Bay NewsIn the past 5 years we have gotten used to the sharks returning to Seal Island in early February but once again nature has had other ideas for us! As I sit writing this newsletter all is quiet and we have yet to see the first shark at Seal Island. We have still had guests wanting to head out and give the shark diving trips a go and due to the other spectacular wildlife in the Bay a good day on the water has been had by all.Most notably the surprise arrival of a sub-adult Southern Elephant Seal to Seal Island has caused quite a stir.The Southern elephant seals are from the southern ocean islands, a good few thousand kilometres away but each year one or two vagrants can be found along our South African coastline. They are normally in a moulting state but the animal on Seal Island appears not to be as yet.These seals are absolutely massive with adult males weighing up to 4000kgs and up to a length of 5.8 meters. It is an impressively massive animal and looks decidedly out of place amongst the Cape fur seals on Seal Island.When he first arrived the seals and the cormorants all give it a very large berth but as of this weekend the cormorants seem to have become a little bit more accepting and are sitting around this giant lump of a seal. Each time the elephant seal moves though it’s as if the seas are parting with cape fur seals scurrying away from him in all directions and in a huge hurry. It will be interesting indeed to see how long he stays for and what he gets up to!
Small schools of common dolphins are starting to come into False Bay and along with them a number of Brydes whales too.
The big question as always is “where are the Great white sharks?” And as ever, we don’t have any answers.
Normally at the very early part of the season the sharks are scavenge feeding on dead or sick seals mostly on the northern side of the Island. Something that is slightly different to the past few years is the high prevalence of yellowtail in the inshore areas of False Bay. Yellowtail are part of the white shark’s diet so perhaps this is their preferred prey choice at the moment.
Great whites have been spotted in False Bay by the Shark Spotters especially along Muizenberg beach so I take this as a good sign that there some animals at least in the Bay. Hopefully it is just a matter of time before they begin their first forays at Seal Island.
Gansbaai Great White Sharks Go Missing Too
There are strange happenings elsewhere too. In February the Great white sharks all disappeared from the Gansbaai area and remained missing in action for 23 days.
On 8 February two male orca that have become fairly well-known due to their distinctive rolled-over dorsal fins were spotted along the inshore Gansbaai area. The very next day a dead 2.6 meter great white shark was found washed up on shore and the departure of the sharks in the area followed suit. Worldwide this seems to be the trend and reaction we are seeing to any white shark death in a specific area.
It was a long 23 day wait for the next shark sighting and although a number of sharks are currently being spotted, there are long waits involved and numbers of sharks seen on each trip are not high.
The dead shark has not as yet been autopsied but amongst various theories being bandied around the most popular theory is that the orcas were involved. Rake marks were found on the dead shark but they were not orca related. In New Zealand seven gill sharks have been observed to beach themselves in response to being chased by orca so “maybe/possibly/who knows…”, this could have been the situation here.
Going back to False Bay news, a pod of orca were spotted close to Cape Point this week so the question begs as to what role they have been playing in our neck of the woods?
On a further side note a good friend of ours was on a shark cage diving trip in South Australia this past January and over his visit all the sharks also went missing in action.
There certainly are strange things a foot…
Travels and News From The Blog
Our travels this year have taken us to The Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana and then to the famous Tiger Beach in The Bahamas. As always our trips have been filled with incredible wildlife experiences so I hope you enjoy catching up on our adventures from our blogs.
“… Most of the tiger sharks here are mature females and the theory is that the pregnant females come to these warmer waters to ease their gestation before moving off to give birth at their pupping grounds in the Atlantic? The warmer water means that they are able to speed up their gestation period. It is further surmised that the younger females, and females who are not pregnant also come here as the low presence of male sharks means they have less harassment from them..."
“…I held my breath for a few seconds (never do this on scuba!) in the hope that I would be a little quieter and the sometimes shy hammerhead may come closer. I need not have worried. This super shark pushed its way into the holding pattern and then came charging in alongside a tiger, it was like watching a A380 and a 787 Dreamliner taxing alongside each other down the same runway, Wahoooooo I screamed inside my head WOW WOW WOW !!...