Mon, 18 January 2010

The City of Cape Town has published its report about the Fish Hoek shark attack last week that resulted in the death of a Zimbabwean tourist, whose remains were not found. Here are their findings.

Following the tragic fatal shark attack on Mr Lloyd Skinner on Tuesday 12th January 2010 at Fish Hoek beach, the City of Cape Town undertook an intensive review of the events leading up to and following the attack. The purpose of the review is threefold:

1) To ascertain the correct facts so that these may be provided to the media and public so as to end ongoing speculation and incorrect perceptions;

2) To review the events as they unfolded to assess the effectiveness of the emergency response to this traumatic event; and

3) To identify any areas or aspects that may reduce the risk of similar events occurring in the future.

In addition it is hoped that by making these facts available to the public, the ongoing speculation in the media, which must be difficult for the victims’ family, will come to an end.

Through a process of eye-witness interviews, collaboration of information from specialists and collation of highly credible information, the following has been concluded:

Mr Lloyd Skinner was attacked by a Great White Shark at 15:31 on Tuesday 12th January 2010 at Fish Hoek beach. At the time of the attack Mr Skinner was swimming (and not standing as previously reported) in a direction parallel to the beach.

At the time of the attack there were approximately 12-15 other bathers in the water. Mr Skinner was significantly further out (in deeper water) than the other bathers and was some distance away from the other bathers.

We have been able to ascertain that a large school of fish was in the close vicinity of Mr Skinner and we are of the opinion that this school of fish is an important factor in drawing the shark into the area.

The shark attacked Mr Skinner from the sea-ward side in a very aggressive manner, demonstrating a predatory response. It approached from the deeper water underneath Mr Skinner and was only visible on the surface as it attacked the victim. This is consistent with natural predatory behaviour of Great White sharks in that they approach the victim without being seen. Following the initial strike, the shark made a further five to six passes of the area, after which it moved off in the direction of Kalk Bay.

On reviewing the Shark Spotting Programme the following was determined:

Two Shark Spotters were on duty: one at the mountain lookout and a second in the beach hut on Fish Hoek beach At the time of the attack, the Shark Spotting supervisor (Mr Monwabisi Sikweyiya) was present in the beach hut completing daily log forms.

Conditions for shark spotting at the time of the attack were not ideal. This is confirmed by the high wind speed (69km/h form a SSE direction), resulting in choppy conditions and intermittent cloud cover.

Water colour at the time of the attack was considered fair.

At the time of the attack the Shark Spotters Black Flag was being flown indicating to beach users these limitations in spotting ability. The Shark Siren as well as the radios were in working order.

In reviewing the Shark Spotting Programme the following must be noted:

Fish Hoek Bay is a large area and the mountain Shark Spotter is required to survey the entire bay and does not focus only on the Jaggers Walk area. It is unreasonable to expect 100% concentration from the spotters at all times. Shark Spotters are expected to scan the entire bay area repeatedly at regular intervals.

In the review the Shark Spotters acknowledged that they did not see the shark or the initial attack take place.

The spotting conditions were not ideal and were limited by significant wind induced chop as well as intermittent cloud cover and the associated shadows cast on the water.

The shark attack was sudden and explosive. All indications are that the shark emerged from deep water where it was not visible and attacked the victim within seconds once it was on the surface. All eye-witness accounts from elevated positions indicate that the shark was not visible prior to the attack.

However, the review notes that the water quality was such that, had the Shark Spotter on duty been looking at the specific area where the attack took place at the moment that the shark surfaced, the shark would not have been visible to the spotter.

However, this review is of the very strong opinion that had the spotter seen the shark prior to the attack, there would not have been any time to warn the bathers before the shark attacked the victim. The shark emerged from deeper water in a predatory mode and attacked the victim within seconds.

The review is of the firm position that, had the spotter seen the shark, the fatal attack would not have been avoided.

Lack of Shark Siren

The Shark Siren was not sounded during the attack or at anytime thereafter. During the interview with the Shark Spotters on duty the question was posed as to why the Shark Siren was not sounded. The response was that once they were aware of the attack, shock and fright set in. By the time they had recovered their composure, no bathers remained in the water, thus they felt that sounding the Shark Siren at that stage would have been of no benefit.

It must be noted that lifesavers on duty effectively cleared the beach of all bathers within a short period of time and without the use of the Shark Siren. No further risk to any other bathers resulted as a lack of the Shark Siren. However, this review holds the position that the Shark Siren should have been sounded as soon as the Shark Spotters were aware of the attack. This was a failure in respect to correct and appropriate emergency response. However, it is also acknowledged that none of the Shark Spotters had ever experienced a shark attack before and that shock and fright are reasonable human responses to such a traumatic event. Further emergency training is required in this regard and real-time practise scenarios should be included in the Shark Spotting Programme.

The spotters must be trained to deal with highly stressful situations and must be trained to respond accordingly. Emergency Response The attack took place in a matter of seconds and lasted approximately 3 minutes. Following the attack, the lifesavers actively cleared the remaining swimmers from the water, contacted the Shark Spotters at the Shark Spotting Hut to ascertain what the situation was and notified the National Search and Rescue Institute (NSRI) and Emergency Services. The Shark Flag was raised at the lifesaving club. Within 20 minutes Mr Ian Kloppers of the NSRI and EMT Emergency Services were on the beach and took control of all rescue operations.

Two NSRI boats as well as the rubber duck from the lifesaving club were launched to search for the victim while a helicopter arrived on scene to conduct an aerial search. The search for the victim continued until 7pm at which point it was terminated due to poor conditions. The search provided no recovery of the victim or any sightings of the shark. Officials from the City, NSRI, Western Province Lifesaving, Shark Spotters and Save Our Seas Shark Centre all convened at the site within 30 minutes of the attack and worked in a co-ordinated fashion to collect eyewitness statements, gather all relevant information and disseminate accurate information to the public and media. Shark Information Shark sightings recorded by the Shark Spotters over the last five years are included below for further information.

In addition it must be noted that shark warning media alerts were issued by the City of Cape Town and the NSRI throughout the summer. More specifically, warnings about a spike in the number of white shark sightings in the inshore area of False Bay were provided through the NSRI on Sunday the 10th January and via the City’s Festive Season Alerts on the morning of Tuesday the 12th January. These warnings explicitly indicated to the public that there was a high incidence of white shark sightings in the inshore area and that beach users should be particularly vigilant and cautious.

Permanent shark signs are present at Fish Hoek beach, including:

a) An indication of the natural presence of these predators in the waters of Cape Town;

b) The Shark Spotting Flag and Warning System.

Review Findings Based on this review the following conclusions are drawn:

Shark Spotters were on duty, the black flag was being flown indicating poor spotting conditions, the lifesaving club was on duty, and warnings of increased presence of white sharks had been provided on Sunday 10th January as well as on the morning of Tuesday 12th January.

The victim was swimming relatively far out and well away from the other bathers in the proximity of a large school of fish.

It is the position of this review that, within reasonable means, the fatal and tragic shark attack could not have been avoided.


The Shark Spotting Programme remains an effective early warning system for the presence of Great White sharks at recreational beaches.

The Shark Spotting Programme has, from the outset, never been considered a 100% effective safety strategy and acknowledges in the “Finding a Balance Report” of 2006 that limitations to the effectiveness include human error, visibility challenges and external conditions (wind, cloud, chop). Since its inception, Shark Spotters have recorded over 570 shark sightings and effectively cleared the beach, reducing the risk of shark attacks at beaches where they are operational.

The Shark Spotting Programme must continue to be supported.

The City should increase the size and visibility of shark information signage along its coastline. The City should consider mobile/temporary signage that could be erected on the beach and complement media alerts during times of high Great White shark presence.

The Shark Siren must be able to be sounded from the Lifesavers’ Tower. This must be rectified immediately.

The Shark Spotting Programme should invest further in emergency training of its staff regarding dealing with shark attacks. Practise / mock attacks should be conducted in conjunction with the NSRI and Western Province Lifesaving The City must, through its formal relationship with white shark researchers from the Save Our Seas Foundation and the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board, remain abreast of possible development of new technologies that would increase the level of safety across our coastline.

This is the second fatal attack in almost the exact location (Ms Webb was fatally attacked in November 2004 in the same area). It is recommended that the City install permanent signage in the area between the Galley Restaurant and Jaggers Walk and along Jaggers Walk indicating that it is unsafe for bathing due to shark presence and encouraging bathers to use the area closer to the lifesaving club for swimming.

The City should recommend to its communities (especially surfers and kayakers) that they have the choice to use personal shark shields. Scientifically reviewed tests conducted by the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board have shown these to be effective in deterring Great White sharks, although they are not guaranteed to be 100% effective. The data from the receivers located on the ocean floor in Fish Hoek must be downloaded by Save Our Sea researchers to assess whether the shark involved in the attack can be identified from a tag.

The City once again extends its condolences to the family and friends of Mr Lloyd Skinner on this tragic event. Finally, it is imperative that it is clearly stated and understood by all that Great White Sharks are naturally occurring species in our waters.

Although rare, sharks and shark attacks remain a part of our landscape, despite our best efforts.

Media Queries: Gregg Oelofse 083 940 8143 Sakhile Tsotsobe 0741850123


Paul Suozzo
-5 #17 Paul Suozzo 2010-01-24 21:38
I think the whole situation boils down to this:

1)South Africa needs maximum economic development to avoid a Zimbabwe-like situation.

2)Shark attacks kill swimmers AND TOURISM (tourist are not satisfied by only looking at the water).

3)Stop all cage-diving outside of Gans Baai. Let them be the Las Vegas of the sport.

4)Use mannequins 10-15 meters beyond bathers and/or swimmers and cull all sharks that attack them. As sharks with this type of personality are eliminated, then others with different tendencies will replace them. I admit that the sea is more the shark?s habit than ours, but people are being killed and these deaths are spreading terror. A tangible effort must happen to prevent the above in item #1.
0 #16 Max1dude 2010-01-22 16:10
Well im a spearo , and have some awesome encounters with dolphins on the atlantic side and around Sea Point....you get a fright everytime , but they are lovely.

As for shark pods when guys are wearing them in the water , we swim far from them as we have seen that they do attract sharks , which are inquisitive and if you happen to be swimming nearby , they might take an interest in you.......

I've seen shark pods been tested at Gansbaai , was the sharks board ppl and it was proven that if a shark wants you , nothing will stop it......shark pods just give you a false sense of security and nasty shock...lol, had one sold it....

When i dive i know im at the mercy of the Ocean , but im always alert and keep a vigil around me and my buddies when we dive and we try not to dive in poor visor dirty water conditions, self explanatory i suppose, but dont go looking for something that could have been prevented.....

And yes fishHoek and sunny cove , as spearo's we are aware of the presence of white sharks in the area.....even we try and stay in the "kelp"..The Ocean is for all to enjoy responsibly........ by the way how many more ppl die in the sea from drowning than shark attacks....??
0 #15 dave007 2010-01-22 12:55
A sad day, my thoughts go out to the families and friends affected.

Just a thought, call me crazy... but would it be possible to have bouys out there with those shark repelling devices attached to them, powered by wave energy/solar which could be triggered remotely by the shark spotters? I think someone mentioned this previously.

Sharks were there first, and in my opinion shouldn't be blamed for attacks such as this. We need to find a way to stay out of their way without disrupting the natural order of their ocean.

Just my 2c...
-2 #14 Local 2010-01-22 11:23
have had a similar session out at milnerton lighthouse Nov last year except was just 1 large male that left another surfer to join me for about 15 mins.
What was amazing is that knowing he was going to come up right next to me, you could not see him until he broke through the water. every wave I paddled for he joined in and cut across (dropped in) and had to pull out in case I rode over him.

but is does make you feel special and was really chuffed he spent time with me.
+2 #13 Casarei 2010-01-22 10:51
Just had one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life, surfed Llandudno yesterday, only one in the water when a pod of Dolphin about 8 strong joined me. Surfed, dived swum with many dolphin in my time but this experience was very different. The small dusky dolphin came within arms length buzzing me, circling coming back being very inquisitive. First thought; Awe! One with nature. They persisted, second thought hey maybe they trying to tell me something! Better look out for the feared lurgie! After a while they moved off and hung around about 100m off.
I was given a Polar Heart Monitor and scheming that I would collect some Vitality points while partaking in my passion, interestingly the session averaged 73% heart rate. More to the point I wondered and am convinced that this was the reason for the extra inquisitiveness from the Dolphin, this got me wondering, has any one else experienced this. I have heard of Surf Ski guys being harassed by sharks, were they wearing a heart monitor, was the guy swimming/training off Fish Hoek wearing one. I?d be very interested if anyone had more experience/researched in the electro magnetic effects, for me the jury is still out, do shark shields attract! Repel!
I know this much my heart will no longer answer to the Surf monitor, Back to the Bike!
-4 #12 Local 2010-01-21 12:56
Must be a realy dumb a-hole that goes jogging in the kruger park!

Imagine if in the 1600 hundreds it was decided to not kill all the wild animals ! Wow, then the tourist would be able to see lions and elephants hunting in Adderly str.
lol and you would not mind if you lost an family meber or limb every now and then cause Africa is their turf.
ha ha
+1 #11 jethro 2010-01-21 12:35
As much as this is a tragedy and we all think of ways to stop the sharks from attacking humns - guys, let's not forget we are in their turf after all. You take a chance being in the water...just as u take a chance jogging for 10km in the kruger national park.....it's your choice...but leave the animals who reside in their water alone.....
0 #10 Amphibious 2010-01-20 15:05
Quoting Mouse2:

Its 2010- people!
ELECTRONIC Technology is available.

Electronically Tag every White Shark u can, and have a live website that shows dots for their location, so water users can decide for themselves if the area is safe by simply logging on.

Get real!! Firstly, Electronic tags have a limited life. Secondly, How are you supposed to tag every White Shark? Thirdly, we are in THEIR space. We must respect that and understand the risks when entering their world.
steve E
+4 #9 steve E 2010-01-20 14:57
due to media hype and our own instinctive fear of the unknown presence lurking in the dark every shark attack will be blown out of proportion. as tragic as the attack was, it happens and it happens very rarely. we are entering their environment and do so at our own risk of being mistaken as their natural prey, they are not viscous man eating creatures and should not be viewed as such. rather we(the human race) should be viewed as destructive everything eating creatures.
on that note i do think that in this day and age of technology and successful tagging of everything under the sun we can reduce encounters with these majestic beasts of the deep.
-3 #8 JB 2010-01-20 14:14
I doubt if there is money for a sharkshield programme or a tracker programme which would be first prize. Human culling maybe considered acceptable to some misled animal lovers but not to the families who like to swim at affected beaches. The report demonstrates that spotting is only effective to detect non-predatory sharks.
The only answer is the Natal approach which involves killing white sharks which come close in. Otherwise there will definitely be more attacks. They are NOT and have never been a threatened species. In fact they are increasing alarmingly and the population growth, like humans, may not be naturally regulated.
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