SA’s First Shark Exclusion Net

Private Property South Africa
Anna-Marie Smith

Property owners, business operators, and tourists stand to benefit from this globally unique shark exclusion net pilot project. Athough only in infancy stages, the project kicked off last Friday, ahead of the upcoming Easter weekend and school holidays.

Based on extensive research, the removable shark exclusion net pilot project comes in addition to the city of Cape Town’s successful Shark Spotters program. While False Bay provides a primary habitat for Great White Sharks, warm water temperatures - on average four degrees higher than the Atlantic Ocean- attracts keen swimmers from across the globe.

The city of Cape Town, publicly opposed to large mesh shark nets as deployed in KZN waters, says it remains committed to the protection of coastal marine life. "If we can be successful with the implementation of this shark exclusion net, we can create a safe bathing space with no harm to the wildlife that comes into the bay." says Greg Oelofse, Cape Town's head of environmental policy and strategy. He says the small meshed net will act like an underwater fence, designed to avoid trapping sea life, unlike larger, more traditional meshed shark nets.

Shark Spotters, appointed by the city for the protection of both the public and local marine life’s Alison Kock says: ”Unlike parallel shark barrier nets in Durban, where sharks become entangled upon leaving beaches as opposed to coming in, the smaller mesh of exclusion nets is designed to keep sharks out.”

10 Facts from the City of Cape Town:

What makes this project unique?

This removable method has not been used elsewhere in the world, only fixed exclusion nets have been used in Honk Kong and Seychelles. As an official environmental and marine research based program, it is monitored by governments worldwide, for possible implementation elsewhere.

Was the design process inclusive of specialist consultation?

The Departments of Environmental Affairs and National Departments of Agricultural, Forestry, and Fisheries as well as the KZN Sharks-Board, trek fishers, coastal and city engineers are consulted on a continued basis.

When will the exclusion net become operational?

The trial period started on 22 March and will run until January 2014, depending on sea and weather conditions.

Where will the net be placed?

Extending 300 metres out to sea from Fish Hoek Corner near Jagger’s Walk.

What is the exclusion net made of?

Thick HDPE twine and mesh size of 45mm x 45mm in a square configuration.

Will whales, dolphins, seals, sharks and fish get trapped?

Every possible step to reduce the risk to marine life is taken, including small mesh size, removal of nets at night, and constant supervision and management by Shark Spotters.

When will the net be deployed?

At the same time as Shark watchers routine, during summer from 07a.m. to 18.00, and 08.00 to 17.00 in winter, with evacuation processes in process.

Who will supervise it?

Shark Spotters as authorised by the city.

Will swimmers need to evacuate if sharks are spotted?

Initially the Shark Spotters routine, of evacuation upon the sound of a siren will remain in place, and under review until after research on the response of sharks to the net is completed.

How will this trial be evaluated?

It will be based on assessment of variables by the Departments of Environmental Affairs, and National Departments of Agricultural, Forestry, and Fisheries.

Also commenting is long time Fish Hoek property owner of Tranquillity Guest House and resident, Gill Taskes: “First and foremost comes the protection of False Bay’s marine life. Should the exclusion net pilot project prove safer swimming conditions, local property and business owners, reliant on regular returns of visitors from around the globe and upcountry, stand to benefit for generations to come.”

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