Cape Town - The experimental shark exclusion net at Fish Hoek beach has been deployed between 30 and 40 times during practice runs and there have been no “by-catches” of fish or marine creatures so far.
“We’ve been trialling it since March and it’s working exceptionally well when it’s in the water,” said Gregg Oelofse, head of environmental policy and strategy for the City of Cape Town.
But the dedicated net crew from Ocean View was still on a learning curve and, because the net was so heavy and bulky, it was taking longer than hoped to get it into and out of the sea – about 1.5 hours each time, he added.
“That’s not really a viable option for us. We’re targeting about 45 minutes for deployment and an hour-and-a-bit for retrieval – that takes a bit longer because they have to lift the net up and then tie it into a sausage shape.
“We think that (amount of time) is workable so, at the moment, we’re focused on improving the efficiency of getting it in and out of the water. Although there’ve been a few glitches, we’ve figured those out and we’re very confident of getting there – I’m very happy.”
However, there were also weather-related challenges, Oelofse added.
“It’s very difficult to deploy when there’s a strong south-easter and, when there’s heavy swell running and a strong wind, it’s even more difficult,” he said.
So, the city was considering deploying the net on lifesaving training days – generally Tuesdays – and on weekends and public holidays during summer, and every day during the peak holiday season, he said. The first lifesaving training within the protected area was scheduled for yesterday.
“But again that will be determined by the weather, and we’ll also be very careful when there are a large number of whales in the bay. So, it won’t become the standard every day, there will have to be opportune or correct conditions.”
There had not been any by-catches during any of the deployments, Oelofse said.
“That’s been very pleasing. And we’ve not had a white shark interaction yet – we’re expecting that to happen during August, and we’re expecting the sharks to investigate the net and then hopefully move off.”
There would also be an evaluation to see whether the net had any impact on trek-netting operations and, particularly, whether it was serving its purpose of creating a safe swimming environment, Oelofse said.
“Of course we can never guarantee that it’s 100 percent safe but it’s as safe as you will ever get in the sea. So, it will be interesting to see the level of buy-in from the public.” - Cape Argus