This research has resulted in the establishment of a shark spotters program, in which previously unemployed persons are trained in shark spotting and identification. These people then sit on top of mountains with binoculars and a flag system. In the event of a shark arriving at a popular swimming beach a certain flag is flown and then lifeguards on the beach will call everyone out of the water if neccessary. (Obviously the system works best when the water is clean). The system has worked well in the past and logbooks of sightiongs kept by the spotters have contributed enourmously to our knowledge of the sharks distribution patterns.
After an increase in sightings over the previous several days a warning to bathers and other sea users was issued by the city's disaster risk management spokesperson at Fish Hoek Beach in False Bay on Tuesday morning. Just a few hours later what was described by eye-witnesses as a giant shark swam up to a bather in chest deep water, bit him and then let him go. The shark then turned back, grabbed the rest of him and swam off under the water. A search was conducted by several boats and a helicopter, but neither the man nor the shark has been found to date. Unfortunately in this case the shark was not seen by the spotters before the attack occured. The man's girlfriend was sitting on the beach and is currently receiving trauma counselling.
What was interesting about this case from a technology point of view is that eye witnesses were logging their observations on Twitter as the attacked happened. The authorities were being interviewed on the radio and television and commenting that there was no information to be had at that point, while at the same time numerous eye-witness accounts of the attack were appearing on Twitter and Facebook. "Holy shit, we just saw a GIGANTIC shark eat what looked like a person right in front of our house in fishhoek. Unbelievable," wrote False Bay surfer and K Bay local Gregg Coppen in the first of a flurry of tweets from his home overloooking Fish Hoek main beach. "That shark was huge. Like dinosaur huge".
Now of course the media circus has started up in earnest. Newspapers are selling like hotcakes and all the "experts" are voicing their opinions. Cage-diving and chumming is vilified and the surfers and paddlers (of which I am also one) start protesting against shark tourism, saying that it conditions great whites to human interactions. To be honest I have never supported the cage diving industry and while the authorities and researchers are quick to say that chumming does not result in increased shark attacks and behaviour modification, I'm not so sure. I guess it's one of those personal decisions, but I'm sure it's of little consolation to the victim or his girlfriend.
Edited by jtresfon, 12 January 2010 - 10:50 PM.