Draft legislation shielding swimmers from attacks by great white sharks in the waters around Cape Town while at the same time protecting the endangered species has been presented to parliament. The policy drawn up by environmentalists, the environment ministry and Cape Town city authorities includes boosting the existing shark-spotting programme and using special fine mesh exclusion nets on some beaches, which would act as a protective barrier for humans without entangling the sharks and other sea creatures.
Currently around 12 people, mostly from Cape Towns homeless, are employed to scour the ocean for signs of shark activity from special positions above three of the citys most popular beaches, sounding an alarm in the event of a sighting. Under the proposals, the number of trained shark spotters and beaches under surveillance would double, to 24 and six respectively. Plans also include creating a website and telephone line to allow surfers to check on shark activity.
There are thought to be around 1,200 great white sharks in South African waters, which are responsible for an average of six fatalities a year. So far this year there have been 69 sightings on two beaches on the False Bay stretch of coastline south of the city centre, against 165 in the whole of 2005. However, with the onset of the summer season and the increasing numbers of surfers and kayakers the number is set to rise.