Mon, 25 January 2010

The Save Our Seas Foundation (SOSF) has announced that it is now a primary sponsor of the Shark Spotting Programme (SSP).

In a press release, the foundation said that it had “joined forces with the City of Cape Town” in its support of the programme. An official involved in managing the SSP said they were “extremely pleased” that the SOSF had agreed to “come on board as primary sponsors”.

“The formalisation of our partnership will assist in further ensuring that the valuable work carried out by the SSP continues to feed into public awareness and education, as well as research on the sharks in the waters where we live,” said Sarah Titley, project manager for the Kommetjie Environmental Awareness Goup (KEAG), the non-profit organization that manages the shark spotters.

Further to the recommendations in the City’s review of the shark bite at Fish Hoek, part of SOSF’s funding will go towards extra signage and awareness materials.

In a statement, the SOSF said that it believed the programme “provides an effective early warning system for the presence of white sharks in the water near popular beaches” but acknowledged that “shark monitoring can never guarantee beach or ocean safety 100 per cent, but it can and does improve the safety of recreational water users”.

More than 570 shark sightings had been recorded by the shark spotters since its inception in 2004. The information collected by the shark spotters was reqularly summarized on their website, according the press release. This data provided information for use in research, enabling a better understanding of white sharks and their movements, while enabling early warning about inshore activity. Such data enabled white shark scientist Alison Kock to observe increased sightings, which led to warnings issued by the NSRI and the City early last week prior to the shark death at Fish Hoek.

“The warnings informed people of the increase in white sharks inshore and requested them to be extra vigilant and cautious.

“As well as playing a major role in beach safety, the SSP also educates the public (both locals and visitors) about sharks and marine conservation, and provides jobs for previously disadvantaged South Africans.

“Great white sharks are a naturally occurring and protected species in South African waters, and they have existed in this landscape for millions of years. The Shark Spotting Programme originated in response to a reported increase in shark sightings and a spate of shark bites in 2004 and 2005.”

“Minimizing contact between sharks and water users is fundamental in preventing erosion of social confidence in the coastline as a safe recreational asset and is critical to the long-term conservation of great white sharks in Cape Town’s waters,” says Alison Kock, director of white shark research for both the Save Our Seas Shark Centre (the local arm of SOSF) and the SSP.

The Save Our Seas Foundation

SOSF is a non-profit organization that encourages conservation and awareness of the global marine environment through global research and education. From humble beginnings in 2002 with one research project on silky sharks it now has over 100 projects in over 40 countries worldwide. SOSF’s initiatives provide key information about maintaining the delicate ecological balance in marine ecosystems, particularly focusing on the role sharks and rays play as top predators and the devastating consequences of removing them from the world’s seas. The Foundation’s researchers have tracked basking sharks across the Atlantic, discovered a new species of manta ray, and closer to home in False Bay, SOSF scientist Alison Kock is day-by-day uncovering the secrets of South Africa’s great white shark.

Using knowledge based on sound science, SOSF aims to inspire people to appreciate the intricate nature of how we are all bound to the health of the sea. Teaching the children of today to be custodians of our marine world tomorrow, it implores every generation to act now and make a difference.

The Shark Spotters Programme

Shark Spotters is a registered non-profit organization managed by the Kommetjie Environmental Awareness Goup (KEAG). KEAG is a well-established NPO with over 18 years of experience in environmental project management on the Cape Peninsula, KEAG is dedicated to the preservation of the natural environment and to the upliftment of our living environment, which is achieved through the managing of diverse but interrelated projects that create employment and deal with real environmental needs. In 2004 three fatal shark bites and two major injuries as a result of shark bites on beaches on the South Peninsula caused panic and fear amongst water users. In response to this, two separate shark-spotting initiatives began, one on Fish Hoek beach, with the trek-netters and local law enforcement, and one on Muizenberg Beach, with the car guards, lifesavers and local surfers Greg Bertish, and Dave and Fiona Chudleigh. Local businesses and more community members became involved, and in 2005 the City of Cape Town officially adopted the programme as it’s primary shark safety strategy after a dedicated workshop was held to determine the best way forward for Cape Town regards the shark issue. The program has since grown to employ 14 permanent Shark Spotters and an additional 6 Shark Spotters during the summer season. It is operational on four of Cape Town’s most popular beaches year round, with an additional two beaches during the summer season.

For more information, interviews and photographs please contact:

Cheryl-Samantha Owen, Ocean Correspondent for the Save Our Seas Foundation sam@saveourseas.com www.savourseas.com

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