Mossel Bay is known as a popular aggregation spot for great white sharks, yet human-shark-conflict is rare. Water users claim that shark sightings have increased. Has it become necessary to be pro active in preventing human-shark-conflict? Photo: Tersia Marais
MOSSEL BAY NEWS - On Sunday 25 October, a 42-year-old resident from Still Bay became the latest victim of a shark attack while surfing at Morris Reef in Still Bay. He sustained non-lethal injuries to his right leg and thigh after being bitten by the shark.
Locally, former professional surfer and owner of Waves School of Surf, Llewellyn Whittaker expresses a deep concern about the possibility of shark attacks taking place in Mossel Bay. He bases this prediction on noticing more and more shark activity especially around the popular surfing spots at the Point.
"Last week Tuesday, 20 October, what seemed to be a great white shark of approximately 3 metres breached no further than 10 metres from the tidal pool at the Point. It was hunting seal," Whittaker explained. In 2012, Whittaker had a nerve wrecking experience, when he encountered a great white shark whilst surfing at the Point but was unscathed during the incident.
Elfie Holden, Development Manager at the Mossel Bay Boat and Yacht Club, says that at the area at Santos Beach where they have trained young sailors for the past nine years, they have been fortunate enough not to have had any shark sightings. She says that owners of motorised boats and anglers too, many of them members at the MBYBC, have mentioned an increase of shark sightings around their boats when at sea.
Holden says, that however an unproven fact, the notion exists among boat owners that the sharks are attracted by the sound of motorised engines and that sightings occur as a result of big marine life like great white sharks being curious to investigate rather than attack.
Enrico Gennari, Director of Research at Oceans Research, who conducts in-depth studies of marine life in Mossel Bay and surrounds on great white sharks, denies that numbers have increased. "Based on our research, the shark population has stayed mostly stable, However, the movements of the sharks around the bay vary notably."
In dire need of a contingency plan
Whittaker remains firm that Mossel Bay is in dire need of a contingency plan regarding the possibility of shark attacks.
"I spend at least one and a half hours watching the surf daily as I train surfers and approximately six hours over weekends. Hence, I think I can safely say that we are aware of more sharks in the bay. We cannot continue not having a plan in place to protect and react."
Whittaker also feels very strongly about the establishment of a committee to regulate activities in the bay, with specific reference to chumming being done. Chumming is the use of bait to lure sharks for observation by shark cage divers and researchers, It is also commonly used among anglers.
After the shark sighting at the Point last week, Whittaker has called on various role players to attend a meeting on 6 November where a way forward will to be discussed.
"We urgently need to think of a programme like Shark Spotters, which is used very effectively in and around beaches in Cape Town. We could lead the way on the Garden Route to prevent shark attacks from happening as well as ensuring general safety at sea."Gennari supported the idea of having a preventative programme in place and committed himself to talks in this regard.
'We must not react in crisis, but rather be pro-active in preventing human-shark-conflict."
Spokesperson of the Mossel Bay Municipality, Harry Hill confirmed upon enquiry this week, that the Municipality is also committed to attend discussions surrounding safety precautions regarding the presence of great white sharks in and around Mossel Bay.
The driver demerit system has been signed off by President Cyril Ramaphosa, and will mean that those who break the traffic law may soon have their licenses suspended. Do you support the initiative to make the roads safer?
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