Fish Hoek shark net gets nod

ca pg8 Shark Spotters INLSA A spotter waves his flag to direct fishermen to a shoal of yellowtail offshore

THE PROPOSED shark “exclusion” net at Fish Hoek beach is one step closer to becoming a reality after it won unanimous approval from the South Peninsula’s subcouncil 19.

The city hopes to have the net in place in October, at the start of the summer swimming season.

The proposal was described by sub-council chairwoman Felicity Purchase as “a very important item” on yesterday’s agenda and “the result of extensive negotiations” between all parties who used the beach, the town and specialists.

It must now go to other city committees for approval and a task team will be appointed to look at ways of financing the project.

The proposed budget is R724 200 for once-off capital costs, annual operating costs of R500 000 and once-off costs of R250 000 for “contracted expertise” and R40 000 for staff training.

It will also require a permit from the national Environmental Affairs Department.

Gregg Oelofse of the city’s environmental resource management department, which is driving the proposal, told yesterday’s subcouncil meeting in Fish Hoek that “a great deal” had been learned about shark behaviour in the past seven years.

“The way great white sharks use False Bay is very distinctive. There are periods of very high activity,” he said.

The proposal was to have the net in the water only during the summer months, which were the high activity months, he explained. From April until the end of September, sharks almost never used Fish Hoek bay and there had been only one sighting in this period in five years.

He emphasised that the exclusion net was not a typical shark “capture device” and asked the subcouncil to endorse the proposed principles for the use of the net. These included:

l The city’s policy was not to use any safety measures for sharks that would harm any other marine creatures.

l The exclusion net would not be a permanent fixture, partly because it would be very vulnerable to ocean swells and wave action.

Oelofse said conditions in Fish Hoek bay were “at best marginal” for the use of the net, but he believed they could manage that by deploying it only when weather conditions were suitable.

The use of the net was particularly to ensure the safety of children and the lifesaver “Nippers”, he added.

The city believed adults had to take their own responsibility based on the information they were given.

“But we have to provide some extra level of safety (for children) and avoid at all costs the devastating effect of a child mortality.”

Purchase said she believed Oelofse’s report had addressed all the concerns that had been raised in “numerous” workshops that had been held with the local community.

She agreed with one of the financing proposals – namely, to ringfence funds for the project from the parking fees for the beach.

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