Shark Spotters: studying trends in South Africa

Shark Spotters, a pioneering South African shark safety program, has established a connection between the lunar phase, water temperatures, and shark sightings.

Surfers have always been an easy target for all types of sharks. Many wave riders have lost their lives battling the power of sharks. Today, it's easier to escape a shark attack. At least in South Africa.

Adopted by the city of Cape Town as a response to several shark bite incidents and increased shark sightings, "Shark Spotting" is now the primary shark safety program used in the region.

Several spotters have been sending data, including the time of the day, lunar phase, water temperature, cloud cover, tides, and details on wind and swell.

Now, the results are incredible.

June and July have the least shark sightings, and in September, these numbers increase into summer. In False Bay, the white shark community is mostly juvenile.

Also, there are four times more chances of spotting a white shark in 18-degree water than there are in 14-degree water. So, in warmer waters, surfers need to take care.

An interesting trend shows that there's almost twice the chance of a sighting during a New Moon than a Full Moon.

The reason might be bait fish, as it is more active under cover of darkness, and therefore so are predators.

Defending from Deadly Shark Attacks

Shark Spotters and WWF have published a list of anti-shark tips for surfers and bodyboarders. Here's how to defend yourself from deadly sharks:

  1. Preferably use surfing beaches where shark spotters and trained lifeguards are stationed;
  2. Surf during the hours that the shark spotters and lifeguards are on duty;
  3. Familiarize yourself with the shark spotters' protocols and the different color flags that are used;
  4. Take the time to speak to the shark spotters and lifeguards before entering the water and ask them if there have been recent sightings in the area;
  5. Avoid surfing when the water is too murky for shark spotters to be effective - when visibility is poor, the black flag will be flown;
  6. Don’t surf in areas where bait and game fish are running, where seals are present, or seabirds are diving. Sightings of dolphins or porpoises do not indicate the absence of sharks;
  7. Consider wearing a personal shark shield;

Take a look a the shark attack map.

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