Wed, 13 January 2010

Shark scientists have moved to allay public fears in the wake of the Fish Hoek shark attack, reports Spike.

The remains of Zimbabwean Lloyd Skinner, 37, remain missing despite ongoing searches today. Eye witness accounts and the rapid spread of Twitter messages led to a torrent of horror stories, some of them based on bizarre religious and other misinformed opinions.

White shark scientist for the Save Our Seas Foundation (SOSF) Alison Kock moved quickly to allay fears that more attacks were imminent, or that sharks were out to consume people. Comments on Twitter after the attack said the remains of the victim were "eaten" after he was "torn apart" by a shark the "size of a dinosaur".

"A shark attack remains rare and an attack of this nature is even more rare. There is no single factor that makes a shark attack a person. There are many. These factors potentially relate to the environment, the day, the person's activity and the shark's activity - all factors that come together and result in an attack.

"Why the shark apparently consumed the person we cannot say for sure. All we do know is that it does not happen regularly. There were numerous shark sightings over the holiday season in False Bay with 1000's of swimmers, surfers, divers in the water. If sharks saw people as food there would be many more attacks and that simply is not the case," said Kock.

She also dismissed suggestions that shark sighting stats had not been released to prevent panic. "This is untrue, and the first time I have heard this. In fact, due to an increase in shark sightings on Friday and Saturday we issued an alert through the NSRI and Cape Town Disaster Management on Sunday for people to be aware of the spike in sightings and be extra vigilant along the False Bay stretch of coastline. And then on the morning BEFORE the attack, another alert was issued using information from Shark Spotters."

According to the head of communications at SOSF Cheryl-Samantha Owen, the search and recovery operation was continuing today. The SOSF research boat was tracking a 3.5 metre female great white shark in the Fish Hoek area. "The research boat, which Alison spends most days on learning more about white sharks, has been out since first light," she wrote.

"Great white sharks are known to appear along the in-shore waters of False Bay during the peak summer months. In January this year 30 sharks have thus far been spotted between Muizenberg and St James."

An article on Wavescape yesterday was flooded with comments, some bordering on the bizarre. Someone called Erik hinted that the shark should be hunted and killed, using quotes from Exodus 21:28 that say: "God will not tolerate the killing of innocent human beings, whether the killers are humans or animals. He will hold them to account at the cost of their blood."

Another called RunD said "Shocking - I hope the poor victim was saved. (ie Accepted what Christ Jesus did on the cross for him)."

A flurry of responses ensued.

"I also hope he was 'saved' dude!" said Andrew D.

Carl retorted: "This guy was not "saved", he was eaten by a huge, beautiful, dangerous animal and is now dead. In case you have not noticed by the state of the world around you, the Bible (or any other religious text) is no guidebook to how one should live. Wavescape is a surfing website, not a soap box for you to canvas support for your imaginary friends. Show a bit of respect, someone has died. Condolences to the family."


+2 #11 GrantL 2010-01-18 15:34
I think that being eaten is one of our deepest primal fears. It's probably deeply embedded in our DNA since our ancestors had to deal with all kinds of things eating them many thousands of years ago. That accounts for the visceral responses to this attack (and every attack).

It seems that many people just can't deal with the fact that there are animals out there that might eat us. There are. They do. That's nature.
+1 #10 RME 2010-01-16 09:54
My sincere condolences to the man's family.
As shocking and tragic being attacked by a shark is it's all too easy for things to be sensationalised. As surfers we all take a chance of a shark encounter every time we go surf. For me the pleasure I derive from being in the ocean far outweighs the inherent risk.
In you wander around alone at night in Kruger Park you run a good chance of being chomped by lions likewise sharks in the peninsula waters.
+1 old grom- The thought of being eaten by a shark is terrifying, possibly being in a road accident (far more likely) isn't nearly as scary.
0 #9 Davo 2010-01-15 17:04
Its all pretty hectic, but on the plus side it appears statistically speaking that its only really bathers in fish hoek who seem to be the most at risk.
+1 #8 Bradly 2010-01-15 16:54
In reply to Mark Wilson; the safest place to do open water training is probably CokeCola Dam onto of Red Hill :). After chatting to the navy chaps I would be nervous as well along that Simons Town strech. But then until the old lady was taken a few years ago, there was an annual Simons Town to Fish Hoek swim and no one thought any different of it. They have that sea swim in Gordans Bay every year and I have seen some submarines while Windsurfing just down the road - jonnies 1-2m wide, yes wide.
Paul van Jaasveld
0 #7 Paul van Jaasveld 2010-01-15 13:21
Quoting Debbi W:
Firstly - there is no freedom of speech on Wavescape I see.
I see birthday boy Spike DELETED comments that were NOT fanatical.

I read comments. Why not let people make up their minds and dialogue?

Just because a person qoutes from the Bible - they are deemed a fanatic.

Yet these seemingly angry athiest types comments are allowed to stay on the site and spew about someone elses comments who were conveniently DELETED by Wavescape?

Spike had nothing to do with deleting
Debbi W
-2 #6 Debbi W 2010-01-15 12:45
Firstly - there is no freedom of speech on Wavescape I see.
I see birthday boy Spike DELETED comments that were NOT fanatical.

I read comments. Why not let people make up their minds and dialogue?

Just because a person qoutes from the Bible - they are deemed a fanatic.

Yet these seemingly angry athiest types comments are allowed to stay on the site and spew about someone elses comments who were conveniently DELETED by Wavescape?
Mark Wilson
0 #5 Mark Wilson 2010-01-14 20:31
can anybody tell me where I can get a map of shark sightings and activities in false bay.I need to find the safest spot for some open water swimming training. I have been using long beach in Simons Town but a little nervious.
Any comments antbody?
Andrew D.
-1 #4 Andrew D. 2010-01-14 11:49
Hey okes, chill out

We are all entitled to our beliefs and freedom of expression. Yeah, the guy did go a bit overboard with the scriptures, but his hearts probably in the right place.....thanks for quoting me in your article brutha;-)

We are all surfers and enjoy the oceans rhythm, so lets treat each other with a little bit more respect because at the end of the day we have to share waves with each other....see you in the line-up.

have a good one!
+1 #3 oldgrom 2010-01-14 11:44
Hey... i dig this site... not been surfing for 14 years prior to nov 09... there were greysuits back then, not as many though... its their space... i think its the thing of being eaten and eaten alive that scares the crap out of people deep down.. in the dark abyss of their phsyche... the thought being eaten is what makes people k@k themselves... we dont see ourselves as food.
Paul van Jaasveld
+4 #2 Paul van Jaasveld 2010-01-14 10:07
Quoting Kurt:
some might say this is an act of god. Religious fanatics out there should really take a good look at themselves in times like these and keep their thoughts to themselves, or maybe think about what they are going to say. this is nature, nature is unpredictable.

I totally agree with you Kurt. It's amazing how God gets blamed every time something out of the ordinary or bad happens (earthquake, tsunami death etc.) and even the religious guys have a wrong idea because God isn't this old ballie who is out to kill people for fun and we are not robots predestined to die when He set the date and time. Stuff happens. He (God) has been portrayed by people who does not know Him. No wonder everybody wants to deny His existence. If He is such a God then I am not interested either.

It's like walking over the road and getting ridden over, or slipping on a banana peel. Somebody left the peel there, you decided to walk there and maybe your choice was influenced by 100 other factors. The shark was hungry and the poor victim was hanging out in the place where he was an easy target. The shark just did what it's created to do.

People are shocked by an incident of somebodies death especially if it is close to them. Thoughts pop up like "it could have been me because I also swim and surf in the sea all the time". Then they want to explain things or give solutions etc. and it's pretty normal for people to question their own lives and think about stuff like where do you go to after you die etc. AndrewD and RunD's statements maybe resonated the deeper internal question a couple of guys asked themselves, but he voiced it in concerned for the victim out of his context.

In closing, I would say that an event like this makes us all think about life in general and if I go now in whatever way, what would my life have meant for those around me and what is waiting on me on the other side. (If there is something.) Personally, I have to face this and ask myself if I am ready to check out and if that is the case will I be satisfied with what my life is right now.

Once again, condolences to the victim's girlfriend and family.
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