Sustainable shark safety services

Published: 02 September 2021
Last edited: 02 September 2021

Shark spotting is a proactive, early-warning shark-safety service provided at 8 strategic beaches around Cape Town where there is a high spatial overlap between people and sharks. It uses continuous visual surveillance by trained observers (spotters) to detect sharks and prevent negative interactions between sharks and recreational water-users.

Spotters scan the water looking for sharks using polarized sunglasses and binoculars. When a shark is seen a siren is sounded and flag is raised, signaling to water users to leave the water and only return when the appropriate all clear signal is given. Shark Spotters uses a system of four informative flags on every beach to communicate the current shark status and spotting conditions to the public.
With over 3,000 shark sightings recorded by the program since its inception, Shark Spotters has significantly reduced the risk of shark bite at our operating beaches, providing safer swimming and surfing areas for visitors and locals alike.

Classifications

Category
Alliance and partnership development
Communication, outreach and awareness building
Education, training and other capacity development activities
Sustainable livelihoods
Scale of implementation
Local
Phase of solution
Entirety

Enabling factors

Shark Spotting requires a significant elevation adjacent to the beach, in order to be effective.

It also requires strong partnerships with local authorities for the implementation of the programme, and support from conservation minded individuals in both government and the communities who are willing to explore sustainable alternatives to lethal control.

Lessons learned

Transparent, open, non-sensational communication around shark risk and ways in which people can reduce the risk of encountering a shark is essential. Counteracting sensationalist reporting and fear-mongering is an important part of any shark safety strategy.

Importance of community buy-in to the programme. Shark Spotters started as a community initiative, which is key to its success. The steering committee is representative of the local community and has local business representatives, ensuring that the organisation is always providing the best and most appropriate service to the community.

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