“Shark in the water!” – words no swimmer wants to hear.
Sadly, one swimmer, Michael Cohen, ignored the warning on September 28, 2011. It’s a date he’ll always remember, the afternoon a Great White Shark bit off his leg.
There have been several shark spottings since we’ve been here. There was another one today. The shark was close to shore and got tangled in fishing nets. It died before it could be released from the net.
Watch this video to learn about Great White Sharks.
During September and October there were several sightings of Great White Sharks in the area. They’re known to visit these waters of False Bay, especially around this time of year when there are many seals in the bay. Because of this, there are Shark Spotters on the beaches and up on the cliffs surrounding these sometimes shark-infested waters. The Shark Spotters spend hours looking through binoculars at the crystal clear water for the large body of this enormous fish, or a shark fin slicing through the water.
On September 28, the Shark Spotters had hoisted the warning flag that notified beach- goers that a shark had recently been spotted. Michael decided to go swimming anyway. As he swam parallel to the beach, the shark came up from behind, took a bite, and then left. Two men on the beach witnessed the attack, called an ambulance and went into the water to rescue him. Soon he was in the hospital. Although one leg was gone, and the other injured, the doctors were able to save his life.
Great White Sharks rarely bite a person. When there has been an incidence of a shark biting a person, it usually leaves after the first bite. Perhaps it realizes that the swimming object it just tasted was not the seal taste it was after.
The only predator a Great White has (besides humans) is the Orca, sometimes called the Killer Whale. Orcas hunt in packs and will surround a Great White. Their speed and strength, and their ability to work together, allow them the opportunity to overcome a Great White.
Although it’s clear that people and Great Whites should not be swimming in the same area together, it’s hard not to admire these incredible animals.
Sadly, they’re endangered, and may end up becoming extinct within a few years. The reasons have to do with the fish itself, as well as people. The fish don’t start having babies until they’re about 20 years old, and usually live for only 25 years, so they don’t produce many babies in a lifetime (for a fish). People are also contributing to their decline. Too many sharks are being caught and sold for food and medicine.
When I visited the beach a week after the attack (to walk on the sand, not swim in the water), I was surprised to see many people in the water. However, I noticed that they stayed in the shallow water.
Some people think we should kill all of the Great Whites and let them become extinct. Others think nets should be put in the water to keep humans and sharks separate (even though it would damage the ecosystem in the area). Some think it’s not such a big problem since few people have ever been eaten by a shark. What do you think? Is it a problem people should solve? How? What might happen to the ocean ecosystem if all the Great White Sharks become extinct?