False Bay Beaches ‘have never been safer’

A comprehensive strategy has been launched to keep the Cape’s False Bay beaches safe this summer – including shark-warning sirens, professional paid spotters, flags, radio communication and signboards.

Emotions are still running high after Tyna Webb, 77, was killed by a shark off Fish Hoek beach but the authorities say False Bay beaches have never been safer.

The City of Cape Town this week formed a working group that will include a wide network of people to work on shark-related issues.

Desire Galant, director of community facilities, said the group would be a city-wide initiative that would work closely with shark researchers to plan more effectively and be pro-active about what could be done.

Felicity Purchase, ward councillor for the Fish Hoek area who also heads a shark management committee, said warning systems were working extremely well and people needed to calm down because the beaches were safer than they had ever been.

A trust fund had been set up to pay fishermen to keep an eye out for sharks at Fish Hoek and Muizenberg from 7am-7pm. Purchase said it was hoped enough money would be raised to include Glencairn, Long, Sunrise and Monwabisi beaches.

“If a fisherman sees a shark he will radio law enforcement and the lifesavers, the siren will sound and the flag will go up.”

Lifesavers and law enforcement offices would then get everybody out the water and a rubber duck would be used, if necessary, to fetch people further out. There were also spotters on Boyes Drive.

Internationally recognised shark-alert flags were being made. Lifesavers and law enforcement officers would also receive first-aid training, shark attack kits and lectures on how to use them.

Lesley Rochat of the AfriOceans Conservation Alliance is producing shark awareness boards to go up at strategic beaches as part of the Save Our Seas Foundation M-Sea Programme, a shark conservation project.

The boards will contain information about sharks likely to be seen in the area, educational content and information on what to do to avoid being bitten – and what to do if you are.

Experts say the likelihood of a shark attack is minuscule. Annual South African statistics show:

– 15 people are killed by poisonous snakes.

– 200 are killed by lightning.

– 408 drown.

– 871 burn to death.

– 10 000 are killed in road accidents.

– 20 000 are murdered.

– 29 000 succumb to smoking-related diseases.

– 370 000 died from Aids-related diseases in 2003 (UNAids/WHO).

Only eight have been killed by sharks in South African waters in the last 43 years.

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