Joint statement on assessment of the recent shark attacks at Port St Johns
19 May 2009
An assessment of recent shark attacks at Port St Johns second beach in the Eastern Cape has been concluded, following the latest fatal attack in March this year which claimed the life of a 16 year old.
The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism and the OR Tambo District Municipality appointed the Natal Sharks Board team of experts to investigate possible causes of such attacks.
The experts’ report considered factors or events which are conducive to shark attack and provides a number of recommendations to reduce the chances of them occurring again.
Factors highlighted as conducive to shark attacks include the proximity of the beach to the Umzimvubu River, a well known nursery ground for Zambezi sharks. Newborn and juvenile Zambezi sharks have been captured in the river.
Another factor which requires careful investigation is the possible attraction of sharks through the disposal of blood and entrails from ritual slaughtering of animals on this beach. Both Zambezi and tiger sharks are notorious scavengers and would be attracted to this beach by the smell of blood and other animal remains. The report recommends that such rituals, when conducted, must be carried out well away from second beach and any other beaches that are used by swimmers and surfers. Poor water quality as a result of sewerage entering the river or the sea is not likely to be a significant factor.
It is recommended that signs be erected at the beach warning users of the possibility of a shark attack. Swimmers should also be advised to swim in groups and stick close to the shore. These signs will be erected by the municipality whose responsibility is in the area of the safety of the bathers and the management of amenities associated with the beach.
To ensure continued monitoring of sharks and marine life in the area, the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism has opted for a partnership with the Sharks Board. The Natal Sharks Board is an organisation that has a long history of protecting bathers from shark attacks in the KwaZulu-Natal coastline.
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Source: Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (http://www.deat.gov.za/)
Issued by: Department of Environmental Affairs
19 May 2009
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