While the idea of the Great White monsters on the coast of South African beaches seems scary and unwanted, the fact that one of the country’s most recognized sharks are disappearing from the coastlines is alarming.
Dr. Sara Andreotti, a Stellenbosch University marine biologist, sighted and studied many of these shark species up until a few years ago when they started to rapidly decline on coastlines. She specifically studied the sharks in their coastal water capital, Gansbaai, in the Western Cape. At times, as many as forty Great Whites were spotted in the water simultaneously in previous years. Now, however, a shark gets spotted every now and again.
This specific shark species attracted many tourists to the area. Chris Fallows, a shark specialist in the Western Cape has noticed the same situation in False Bay, which is roughly 100 kilometers from Gansbaai. Fallows used to spot nearly 200 different species around Seal Island but hasn’t seen any in two years. This raises great concern and is just one indication that the apex predators are in great of surviving in the future.
Why Have the Sharks Vanished?
Two theories account for this mass disappearance. One is due to the appearance of orcas in both Gansbaai and False Bay in recent years. These predators hunt sharks, which has scared them off from the coastlines. Potentially, the second is a decline in shark food due to intensified fishing patterns of all small shark species, including the soupfin and smooth-hound sharks.
Local smooth-hound sharks get caught with baited hooks on the seafloor and get exported to Australia to get sold at fish-and-chip eateries as ‘flake’. Recently, these vessels have also been caught fishing deep inside the marine protected areas. Although this may be the cause of smaller species of sharks disappearing, the Great Whites are also speculated to being fished by southern China. Andreotti says that poaching and illegal fishing are the biggest threats sharks face on South African coastlines and in the world today.