Cape Town - The decline in sightings of great decline in sightings of great white sharks off the coast of Gansbaai, also known as the great white shark capital, during the past few years took a turn for the better as marine biologists at Marine Dynamics revealed that the species returned to Gansbaai after a year of being absent.
The team said June 12 became a memorable day for tourists and crew members on its shark cage diving boat when they saw Copper sharks and Bluntnose sevengill sharks, but the highlight was the sighting of a 2.5 metre female great white shark.
Since then, the team reported sightings of between two and four great whites every day by the Marine Dynamics shark tour boats.
White shark biologist and PhD candidate, Alison Towner, said this was the first sighting in Gansbaai after almost a year.
Marine biologist Kelly Baker said: “In Gansbaai, a noticeable decline in great white shark sightings was observed from the beginning of 2017. The first half of that year saw multiple extended periods completely void of great white shark sightings in the area, something that we have not recorded in the 15 years that the team has been collecting near-daily observational data on this species.”
She said the lack of great whites sightings in this area, as well as in other areas along the Cape Region, continued since 2017, with inconsistent sightings throughout the years.
“The team at Marine Dynamics, and conservation partner The Dyer Island Conservation Trust, have been collecting data on great white shark visitation to the area through long-term observational information on the species,” Baker said.
The Acoustic Tracking Array Platform, a large collaboration between scientific institutions and NGOs from across South Africa, has been working to monitor the movements of various species – including great whites – to assist with research about the species, species patterns, and possible threats.
Towner said monitoring the movements of great whites in this way had never been more important, and it was also good to have citizen-science collaborations contribute from tourism platforms.
She said one of the sharks sighted in Gansbaai during the past week was a 4-metre female that the acoustic tagged off the tip of Africa a month ago.
“Just a few weeks ago, the NSRI put out a warning about an uptick of them in Plett and the Eastern Cape, now some have arrived back in Gansbaai – which clearly shows they are highly mobile transient species and will move to where conditions are favourable (or away from, if unfavourable),” Towner said.
She said great white sharks faced numerous pressures in South Africa, and it was worth going to see and dive with them now while the threatened species was around in Gansbaai.