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South Africa Issues Great White Shark Alert As 'interaction' Season Approaches

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CAPE TOWN, South Africa -- The City of Cape Town has issued an urgent warning to all beach and ocean users of the seasonal increase in white sharks along the city's in-shore areas.

"Although white sharks are present in our waters all year round, we are approaching the time of the year when the possibility of encountering one of these animals is much greater," said Gregg Oelofse of the City's Environmental Resource Management Department, Tuesday.

According to scientific evidence, sharks change their habitats from predominantly using the seal colony in the winter to predominantly using the coastal inshore areas during the summer.

"Over the past five years, the period of mid August to end September has recorded the highest numbers of interactions between white sharks and recreational users.

"The Shark Working Group would thus urge people using the ocean to be extra vigilant over the next few months when the highest occurrence of inshore white shark activity is expected," said Mr Oelofse.

This seasonal change, he said is not unique to False Bay, adding that similar behaviour is recorded in Gansbaai, Mossel Bay and even in California.

"In fact, anecdotal evidence from fishermen and military exercises suggest that this trend was documented in False Bay since the early 1900s," he said.

The city Council recently adopted a five year funding programme for the shark spotting programme, which is unique in the world.

"Yesterday [Monday], shark spotters recorded a shark sighting at Fish Hoek beach just after midday - the first in the area in months. A shark was also seen this past Saturday near Sonwabe beach, halfway between Strandfontein and Muizenberg."

People are encouraged to use areas where shark spotters are on duty and to ask them about recent sightings and activity.

They should also read the shark spotting signs and acquaint themselves with the four flag warning system and use of a siren to close off the beach.

Shark spotting programmes currently operate seven days a week, from 8am to 6pm, at Muizenberg corner, St James beach, Fish Hoek and Noordhoek (The Hoek).

From October the shift will be extended to 7pm.

From September, shark spotters will also be on duty from 10am to 6pm on weekends, school holidays and public holidays, at Monwabisi beach, Mnandi beach, Blue Waters beach and Clovelly Corner.

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