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GREAT WHITE story from Cape Town

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Jun 13, 2003

This was published in todays local paper:

Fisherman in latest encounter with shark

April 26 2004 at 02:35AM

By Janette Neuwahl

Seeing a great white shark breach off Seal Island is no surprise to most False Bay fishermen, but a rise in shark incidents in the past month has Capetonians wondering what is causing the increase in shark and human interaction.

Three weeks ago, on April 5, 16-year-old John Paul Andrew was attacked by a great white off Muizenberg beach.

Over the weekend, Kalk Bay fisherman Mogamat "Achmat" Hendricks came face to face with a breaching great white shark, who's eye was just centimetres from his own.

'Sharks breach the surface to fetch cape fur seals'
On Saturday afternoon, Hendricks had finished pulling in a line off Strandfontein when a great white shark emerged from the water, twisted upwards and brushed Hendricks's shoulder before returning to the water. The brush with the animal caused him to fall backwards into a cubbyhole of the Sea Breeze fishing boat.

After these incidents, the fishing and surfing fraternities along the Indian Ocean coast are trying to understand what is causing so much shark and human contact.

On Monday morning surfers will meet with Muizenberg councillors to discuss safety plans to prevent shark attacks.

Fishermen in Kalk Bay spent time on Sunday talking about how to prevent people from feeding sharks, which may be attracting them closer to shore.

Chris Fallows owns Apex Images, a company that specialises in shark conservation and photography.

Throughout his career, Fallows has captured images of great white sharks breaching the waters of False Bay. He believes the sharks are not leaving the water to bite humans, as Hendricks's experience might suggest.

"Sharks breach the surface to fetch cape fur seals - they do it purely as a predatory response," Fallows said.

"Unfortunately the press has gone into a shark frenzy trying to create mass public hysteria but I've never personally felt threatened by great white sharks. If a great white shark wanted to take out a human being, it would certainly be able to do so by swimming a few metres into shore and grabbing a bather any day."

Alison Kock, a University of Cape Town student researching shark's behavioural ecology at the South African Museum, agreed.

"A lot of the time with the fishing boats the sharks follow large fish on the line," said Kock, who was studying the swimming patterns of great whites off Seal Island on Sunday.

"When someone is fishing, they are attracting a lot of attention, whether it be from sharks or others, and the fish is sending out a lot of distress signals so the people on the boat (on Saturday) might just have been in the way."

Hendricks admitted that fishing off Seal Island does attract sharks. He has lost many fish and lines to the overpowering animals, but on Saturday he was not fishing when the shark breached.

Hendricks believes the tourist boats that feed sharks probably led to his encounter.

"We always see people feeding fish to the sharks, so when they aren't there, the sharks look for something else - that's when they give us problems," said Hendricks, 57.

This article was originally published on page 3 of The Cape Times on April 26, 2004
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Reactions: Pablo
Chris Fallows is so right, the media are getting into mass-hysteria mode. The White probably raised it's head out of the water to check the line the guy had been pulling in, and by the time he had finished telling his mates the story in the pub 5 hours laetr, it had "Launched itself out, aiming at him, it's snapping jaws passing within inches of his eyes..." I think it's a crock of shit myself.
The one thing you didn't say was that Apex Images have a pretty good website - well worth the visit


Very True!!! Chris Fallows is a brilliant photographer!!!! I've got one of his poster of a GW breaching stuck on my bedroom wall. Wake up every morning looking at a HUGE GW completely out of the water!!!!

To anybody even remotely interested in very good pictures of sharks and other game fish, definitely check out:

Heres a picture of the poster in my bedroom



  • gw breaching.jpg
    gw breaching.jpg
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Great White Activity in Cape Town

This point raises an interesting question ... How much effect is the cage diving industry and their interaction with great whites having in Cape Town?

There are numerous articles in the newspaper ranging from “little or no effect” to it is having a “dramatic effect.” There are also respected scientists on both sides of the debate. To my reckoning, there are several tour operators, operating several times a week, so over the space of a year the number of dive trips becomes substantial. So the interaction between man and great white, certainly in cape town, has gone to from almost zero to substantial over the space of just a few years. And, personally, I have to believe that this has to have an effect: it’s just not clear how large the effect is. I have no real basis for this other than hearing a story that I believe is true. There is shark diving offered off the Californian coast, at Guadalupe Island. And bear in mind, I have never been there, just relaying what I have heard from a diver that I respect. In the past when spearos used to go out there, GW’s were about, but they were a rare sighting. Very rare. Now, apparently if you go there, within a few hours of your boat arriving, a GW will show up, on occasions, several have shown up. Which for most of us means that the diving is over. The spearos attribute this increased activity directly to the use of cage diving and chumming the water. This is only one point of view, of course. I could be completely off base, but I doubt it.
feeding affects behavior

Can't say much about great whites, but it is real clear that feeding affects behavior of sharks in the Bahamas. Off Walkers Cay, a local dive operation has established a feeding station that attracts hundreds of sharks, quite impressive to see. Once I accidentally dove in an area about a kilometer from the site (not spearing) and very quickly attracted at least 5 reef sharks whose behavior was radically different from any I had seen in a lot of years of spearing. They weren't agressive, but would come right up to us, look straight at us, obviously very interested. Extremely different body language, completely out of character. Not threatening just very, very wierd. I got out of the water. Later, watching videos of the feeding site, the behavior looked similar. I have absolutely no doubt that I was seeing the results of feeding. Can't say I like it much.

The problem with feeding sharks (or chumming and then diving) is that Sharks gets to associate the humans in the water's electrical signal with feeding. BAD.
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