The Shark Spotters do an incredibly important job on Cape Town’s coastlines. These highly trained individuals scan the water looking for sharks, using polarised sunglasses and binoculars. Shark Spotters are positioned along the Cape Peninsula but predominantly along the False Bay coastline.
When a shark is spotted, a siren sounds and a white flag is raised on the beach, signalling to swimmers to leave the water and only return when the “all clear” is given.
Shark Spotters use a system of four colour-coded flags to inform beach goers of the shark status and spotting conditions. See the city of Cape Town’s shark flag warning poster for more information on the four flags.
The programme uses research conducted on several shark species in Cape Town to inform conservation and management strategies, public safety policy, and education and awareness campaigns. Shark Spotters also collate shark sighting information.
In 2012, as part of the programme, the Shark Spotters partnered with the City of Cape Town to install an environmentally-friendly shark exclusion net off Fish Hoek Beach, to prevent sharks from entering into the swimming area of the beach.
How to become a Shark Spotter
To be a shark spotter you must have excellent eyesight, a passion for the environment, and excellent communication skills. Work experience that involves the ocean is an advantage. Shark spotters come from local communities where the programme operates.
Posts are usually advertised in the local newspapers, the People’s Post and the False Bay Echo in August and September to prepare for the summer season.
All spotters undergo an intensive training programme. Experienced spotters and fisherman teach new recruits how to spot a shark, to identify the marine animals in the area; and how weather and water conditions affect spotting ability.
Spotters also join research field trips to see the sharks up close at Seal Island and are taught basic marine biology. Spotters receive continual on-the-job training and learn skills through experience on a daily basis.
Basic first aid
All spotters are trained in basic first aid. They are able to respond should a shark bite incident or other medical emergency occur.
If you are interested in becoming a spotter, or would like to find more information about the Shark Spotters programme, you can contact Shark Spotters via their site’s online form or contact Sarah Waries, Project Manager of the Shark Spotters Programme via:
078 174 4244
086 508 6258
Picture: Shark Spotters