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Shifting Great White Shark Populations Pose New Challenges for South African Beach Safety

Published September 21, 2023
9 months ago

South Africa grapples with the eastward shift of the world's largest great white shark population — a development straining the beach safety measures in place. The largest study to date on South Africa’s white shark populations points to a movement away from the Western Cape region. Evidence of this includes angler catches, shark spottings, and net entanglements on the eastern beaches, thus inviting fresh safety considerations.

A beach safety organization known as Shark Spotters has expanded its operations, beyond Cape Town, particularly to the Plettenberg Bay beach resort, about 280 miles east. This move was necessitated by fatal shark incidents in this region last year.

The drastic change, which may be attributed to orca predation or falling prey species, has led to a growing presence of these marine predators. The resort has already reported 37 sightings since the expanded operations, starkly contrasting the zero reports from Cape Town since 2019. This is in comparison to more than 300 across eight city beaches reported in 2011.

Apart from vigilance, enhanced measures such as increased signage and temporary beach closures may be required to handle the changing tides for the safety of beachgoers. The impact and reason for this eastward migration are still under study, but overfishing's impact on prey species or predator scare from orcas are currently leading theories.

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