Shark Nets At Fish Hoek Beach

I guess that it was inevitable that the negative publicity surrounding a recent shark attack would lead to shark nets at Fish Hoek beach.

shark nets at Fish Hoek beach
Shark Attack off Fish Hoek Beach-know the signs

Tourism is in a general slump in the area which is inevitably having a knock effect for the rest of the economy. Certainly the portrayal of Fish Hoek beach as being a place that you will get eaten by a great white shark will not have helped in bringing people to the area if they are looking for a beach holiday, however, following the latest attack my own evidence was that there was a massive influx of people ‘shark spotting’.

And at the end of the day it seems that this is more about creating the right image for Fish Hoek than about finding any practical solution to the problem.  For one, from what I understand of the proposal for shark nets at Fish Hoek beach they are intended to cover only a small area of the beach (the proposal I read said that they would protect an area the size of two football pitches). Recent attacks have been occurring in areas that would surely be outside the netted area. If you erect shark nets at Fish Hoek beach I will guarantee that someone arrogant fool will want to swim outside them (the last attack occurred even though there was a general warning of increased shark activity) . Should they then be attacked the problem would be doubled because not only would we have the negative publicity of the attack, but also that the nets are totally ineffective.

Will Shark Nets at Fish Hoek Beach Endanger Marine Life?

The second problem is that shark nets at Fish Hoek beach will put a lot of other marine wildlife in danger. Official reports are trying to promote that any shark nets at Fish Hoek beach will be of a type that stops sharks from entering the area but is safe for all other types of marine creature.

I’m sorry, but I can’t buy into that. There has to be the potential for things getting entangled in the nets- in fact if you think about this, shark nets at Fish Hoek beach could actually attract sharks! A big statement, but think about this logically.

My mother’s family is from a small fishing village on the east coast of England. Every summer they had a very short salmon season. They used to lay out long lines of nets in the bay to catch salmon as they migrated up the coast. A large problem was that the netted fish attracted seals, who saw it as an easy meal. Exactly the same thing will happen with any shark nets at Fish Hoek beach. Fish will get caught in the nets, attracting seals. Following the seals will be the sharks, not to mention that great whites are also carrion feeders.

Presumably the nets will not be in the water when the whales are here, but we also have large marine mammals at other times, though it is rare for them to come in close to the shore.

Our marine ecosystems are already under immense pressure, it is impossible for us to know what negative impact placing shark nets at Fish Hoek beach could have on them. Something as mundane as a tiny jelly fish not washing up on the beach could have far reaching effects.

Shark Nets at Fish Hoek Beach could save the town

Of course, the other side of the coin is that the businesses of Fish Hoek need a shot in the arm, and the perception of safety for bathers could provide just that. In this case, do we need to put up with any negative environmental factors and see the erection of shark nets at Fish Hoek beach as a great way to revive the fortunes of the town?

It could do, and it could also lead to further investment in Fish Hoek, because I don’t want to be negative about a town that I love living in however, we need a lot more than just shark nets at Fish Hoek beach to make this an attractive destination for tourists. I have travelled the world and I have never seen a beach this popular with such little infrastructure. Not that I am advocating the erection of arcades and every fast food joint imaginable, but surely there is scope in the summer for a few vendors.

There has been a lot of positive work done recently to upgrade the beach, especially on the south side. The restoration of Jaager’s Walk and the upgrade of the toilet facilities is first class, maybe the logical step is to have shark nets at Fish Hoek beach. Who am I to say?

Just a final thought though. News reports on the shark nets at Fish Hoek beach are mentioning heavily that there have been two attacks since 2006, two of them fatal. Off the top of my head I can think of four fatalities on the railway between Fish Hoek and Muizenburg in the same time, and five fatalities on Kommetjie Road (just the Fish Hoek side) in the last three years (a billboard ad at the bottom of the Silvermine reserve a few years ago had the stat on it that more people die from tipping chairs backwards than from shark attacks.) Which only goes to show that this is more about media image than practical reality.

So I think it is time to change the poll on the home page:

Shark Nets at Fish Hoek Beach- Yes or No?

Have your say as to wether to have shark nets at Fish Hoek beach or not Poll on the right

7 thoughts on “Shark Nets At Fish Hoek Beach

  1. karoline says:

    Big No, No, No! I agree with you – how can it NOT impact on marine life?…think it is a huge step backwards. I fear that very few people will feel the same way though :(

  2. lachlan says:

    All of these people that have such a cry about the marine life being killed in shark nets need to think rationally about this. Human lifes are the number one priority here. Before shark nets in the Gold Coast there was lots more attacks and fatalities. maybe some other marine life will die and that is a bummer but untill there is a better alternative then c’est la vie! The ocean is the home of marine life. sure, I’ll cop that. But they have a shit load of ocean to use and don’t need to come within 250 meters of shore. Something like 100 million sharks are killed a year.

    1. Russell Hepworth says:

      Well, you are entitled to your opinion, and at least we can see why the oceans are in such strife. You are right, the ocean is a big place, but not if you are a fish that lives in Fish Hoek Bay and moves in and out with the tide to feed. You also make a good point about 100 million sharks being killed each year- how many humans by shark attack (how many humans crossing the road to the beach, drowning, boat accidents etc)? I think I said in my article that I am confused about the shark nets; I have a 3 year old daughter who loves to play in the water, when she is a bit older and starts wanting to surf I will be very nervous because of the sharks (though I suspect I should be more worried about rip tides etc.) The more I read about the proposal the more I think that it is just a publicity tool for convincing people that the beach is safe. It will be strung across an area that does not see much (if any) in the way of shark activity. It also won’t be a big enough area for the die hard swim brigade who will still be swimming outside the nets. I could be wrong as I am working from memory, but I seem to think that if the nets had been in place all three recent attacks would still have happened as they are outside the area. Whilst recently at the beach I realised that the vast majority of beach users are only in the surf- the great whites of False Bay tend to trawl the open water beyond the surf line, never coming close in to shore- I can’t say it won’t happen just that all the evidence suggests they won’t (it also hasn’t happened yet that a shark has walked out of the water and eaten someone sat on the beach…)
      What we are doing here then in my opinion is once again putting financial interests ahead of environmental concerns, and what erks me is that it is short sighted. Why are we working against the natural resources that we have? There are still plenty of beach goers, families especially don’t need to be using the ocean out to a kilometer, and I wonder how much they contribute to the local economy as a whole. Why not replace the revenue lost due to nervous bathers with eco tourists coming to see Great Whites. There are plenty of cash rich foreign tourists who will happily get up at 3am so that they can be bussed through to Gans Baai so that they can spend a day hoping to see Great Whites before being bussed home again. Surely we should be trying to tempt them down to Kalk Bay instead?

  3. cdactivist says:

    Russell,
    I’d be more worried about lachlans mentality than the sharks !

    I am a life long shark enthusiast from the UK – I had a connection to fish hoek but unfortunately he passed away tragically last year. I’m not going to name him as that’s not valid here but you mention eco tourism – I spent 5000 English on two trips to SA (2001 & 2003) with the primary intent of seeing whites and I did so with Rob Lawrence.

    Anyway, the likes of Lachlan need to consider this.
    Shark nets are not pretty. Yes, tourism may benefit to some degree but people coming from non-shark areas will be weary to see nets.

    Nets are extremely expensive long term. Upfront costs are substantial but they perish. A large predator will cause damage should it get trapped and eco wear and tear prevails.

    They need constant patrolling – daily.
    This needs to be professionally executed. Wages and scuba is not cheap.
    A large predator needs to be extracted quickly before it can tear up the nets too bad.
    A large dead predator… Well, guess what that’ll attract?

    … But the real concern is the towns PR. You drop into ‘jaws’ mentality but what happens when all that marine life you (Lachlan) don’t give a monkeys about starts getting you bad publicity.

    I was on the catwalk, summertime, several months before whale season and a brudas whale popped up in very close proximity to the shore. I saw it again the following day out at seal island.
    Consider the reop that will follow if that magnificent creature drowned in the nets.
    White sharks are high eendangered and you snag a couple of those, it will not only be their funeral if the likes of the WWF start going public on their con

    Lachlan, to drop into your tone, y ou may not give a **** yada yada about what goes on on your doorstep (if you live in Fish Hoek)
    But be assured, you get animal rights doorstepping you and you can be assured it’ll be bad.
    For the record, I am not animal rights. Absolutely not. Yes, I am a shark enthusiast but I also like Fish Hoek.
    I would consider an alternative – a tidal pool perhaps. I have no idea the cost but securing rocks for a reef must be cheaper than x years of maintaining nets.

    Anyway, I wish you well except Lachlan who’s just a tool…!

  4. cdactivist says:

    Just to clarify, I’m having a little trouble with his web browser – no idea how my text implied the WWF and their ‘con’ – never even typed that.

    Incidentally, I would also consider the seine net guys – dragging huge nets up the beach joy draws the sharks in. Kinda supports Russell’s theory regarding his net smorgasbord (!)

    Most of this starts with education. Start with educating people not to swim out far where there are drop-offs.
    Sharks patrol with meticulous routine and they favour deep water close to shallow so they can whistle up unannounced.
    You have this at seal island where the drop on simonstown side is approx 60ft and yeah, they hit hard from that depth – seen it with my own eyes.
    They also favour gullies, sandbars, reefs, anything for cover but they appear to use these like a roadmap.
    You have to bear in mind if you are 50yds out and one is spotted, you’re screwed… Doesn’t mean the surf is safe – the danger is there they have greatly reduced visibility but a white prefers deep water for risk of bleaching but don’t get complacent – Hong Kong had a spate of attacks in the nineties and at least one was chest deep. That was believed to be an injured or sick shark as it hit several times in a very brief period.
    They erected solid metal fences which is another option but you have to bear in mind, the eco system in the immediate vicinity will change with walls and reefs etc… And nets for that.
    I’d find a backer for the tidal pool personally and start larging the eco tourism – are you aware you are one of the very very few places globally where you can more or less turn up and see one of the rarest creatures on the planet?
    You check the shark forums and it is ridiculously amazing what you have to an enthusiast and that means dollars if you know how to manage it.

    Do something but get it right first time I say cos cleaning up a eco disaster will do you no favours.

  5. cdactivist says:

    My apologies for the state of my txt – it is not presenting correctly in the upload but I think it is readable . Rgds CD

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