This morning there was a tragic Shark Attack off Fish Hoek Beach, at the Clovelly end, and although at present facts are dependent on who you talk to it seems that this is going to have to go down to one of those things. All the reports that I have read point to the fact that the shark watch was in operation, that the correct flag was flying and that spotters were working in tandem to clear the waters.
The unfortunate swimmer is in a critical condition and at present has had to have a leg amputated- and it sounds odd to say this- are probably very lucky. In the situation of no-one being around to help a swimmer, if the shark is serious the person will not survive.
So, if the shark spotter program was in operation and the correct warnings were out what went wrong and why was there a shark attack off Fish Hoek Beach?
A little local knowledge is certainly required if you are going to swim off any beach, no more so than in an area with such dangers in the water. There are man eaters in the water off Fish Hoek Beach- fact. Attacks are rare but if you swim out there you take your chances. The spotter program is very good but to be as effective as possible you need to be able to take notice of it.
A friend of ours who has lived in Fish Hoek all her life says that in her youth swimming at the Clovelly end of Fish Hoek Beach was banned- not because of fear of shark attacks, but because there is a severe rip current.
Other factors that contribute to increased risk of a shark attack off Fish Hoek Beach at that end are:
- the Silvermine river enters the sea there- esturies are notorious ambush sites for sharks, the water is murky and food suppliers usually greater there. Also the flowing water tends to carve out deeper channels than in the surrounding sea bed.
- the sharks tend to come from that direction, rounding the headland from Kalk Bay and entering Fish Hoek bay. Spotters are stationed on the hill side on Elsies Peak- the south end of the bay, so although they are eagle eyed, the chances of them spotting a shark and preventing a Shark Attack off Fish Hoek Beach at the Clovelly end are much reduced.
- the beach based spotters are based at the busier south end of the beach so even if they get a warning early enough, it cannot be used to prevent a Shark Attack off Fish Hoek Beach at the clovelly end (as I believe has happened in this case- it was a classic nightmare scenario of the spotter racing to warn the swimmer only to arrive too late).
Eye witness reports point to the sirens not being sounded- this being blamed on a power cut that was occuring at the time. This is not likely to be the case as it is my understanding that the sirens work off batteries. It may be that they did not sound, but sometimes the wind blows the noise in land (it was an on shore breeze today) and even if they blared out for all they would not have prevented a Shark Attack off Fish Hoek Beach at the clovelly end. The sound would never have carried that far against the wind.
So tragic accident yes- anyones fault? Well, at this point it would be harsh to point fingers at anyone- including the shark.
What we definatley don’t want now is a reaction against sharks- as usually happens after such incidents. A Shark Attack off Fish Hoek Beach does not justify calls to eradicate these amazing, mysterious, forces of nature. It is no secret that they are there so you enter the water at your own risk.
Sharks are a necessary part of the eco-system. Without them we would see a collapse of the marine environment.
Play safe, stay dry, follow the signs, stay in areas that are covered by the shark spotter program, but be aware that there are Great White Sharks off Fish Hoek Beach, they do attack swimmers, and as good as spotters are, they are not a complete deterant against attacks. Unfortunately a Shark Attack off Fish Hoek Beach is an innevitability once in a while, but in relation to the number of people who use the beach they still remain rare. It is unfortunate if it is you that is attacked, but you shouldn’t be scared off, just be warned.
My thoughts and best wishes go to the man who was attacked and to his family at this time. I hope he has as full a recovery as is possible. I also hope that there will be no knee-jerk reactions to this, because the shark did nothing more than it is supposed to do.
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