Cape Town - 130130 - Gregg Oelofse gave a presentation on living with sharks at the Kramer Hall in UCT as part of UCT's Summer School series. Reporter: John Yeld. PICTURE: DAVID RITCHIE

Cape Town - The City is hoping that permission from the national environment department to deploy its shark exclusion net at Fish Hoek beach is “imminent” – and that formal approval could come as soon as Friday February 1.

This was revealed by Gregg Oelofse, head of environmental policy and strategy for the city, during his talk at the UCT Summer School’s course, Living with Great Whites in Cape Town.

The city has been wanting to deploy the net – which Oelofse again emphasised was not a traditional shark net aimed at killing the creatures – since early summer, but the environment department has not yet approved the move, citing ecological concerns.

Responding to a question by the Cape Argus, he said that Shark Spotter programme researcher Alison Kock was scheduled to meet department officials on Friday.

“We’re hoping that will be the last step in the issuing of the permit. The net is on site, the moorings are in the water, we’re ready to go.”

The net is planned for an area in the southern corner of Fish Hoek bay, adjoining Jagger Walk, that is the most popular part of the beach for swimming.

But Oelofse warned people not to expect a perfect deployment immediately and said the first day in particular would not be “smooth sailing”.

“We really mean it when we say we will be trialling the net. It’s likely to be difficult. It’s a process and we’ll be learning through that.”

Although the city was “very committed” to safety measures to protect bathers, this would not be at a high ecological cost. If the exclusion net was found to be having major negative impacts, such as entangling southern right whale calves, it would be removed, he said.

Although the chances of an individual being attacked by a shark were minimal, the city recognised that human nature and emotions did not respond to statistics, and it was committed to finding a balanced approach.

“It would be a huge mistake to create a stand-off between people and the environment... In my experience, it’s always the environment that loses.” - Cape Argus