Ocean activities are a large part of Plettenberg Bay life for its residents and visitors.
On 4 May 2022, the Bitou Municipality received a request for permission to trial a Sharksafe Barrier in Plettenberg Bay. This is a magnetic barrier that will not entangle sea life nor boat motors. Support for this was required from the Bitou Municipality in order to obtain the necessary research permits from DFFE (Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment). Thereafter funding of approximately R30 million needs to be privately raised for the research. The approval for this testing was granted at a council meeting on 31 May 2022.
After the shark attack fatality on 28 June 2022, a group of concerned local businesspeople started discussing measures to create awareness and the need to set up an early warning system of shark activity to inform beachgoers to ensure their in-water safety as far as possible.
On 13 August 2022, a WhatsApp group for communication was established and so the Plett Shark Action Group (PSAG) was born. This group had their first meeting on 26 August 2022 at the Plett NSRI station office.
The participants in this group currently number 14 members and include:
- Bitou Municipality – Mayor, Municipal Manager, Director Community Services, Beach Manager, Environmental Manager.
- Plett Tourism
- Concerned business owners
- Ocean Outfitters
- Marine Conservation Trust
- Plett White Shark Research Project
Decisions taken at this inaugural meeting were as follows:
- Lifeguards will commence duties on 1 October 2022 (earlier than previous years).
- Improved signage informing the public of various risks of the ocean including shark activity under the theme ‘BE OCEAN SMART’.
- A shark-spotter system will be in place for December, including cameras at high points.
- The use of drones for shark-spotting.
- Use of a jet-ski to track shark movement.
- An app for reporting shark activity will be activated.
Mock-ups of the first draft signage was circulated amongst the group on 22 September 2022.
On 26 September 2022, it was agreed that lifeguards were to be activated earlier than originally planned by the Bitou Municipality to also act as shark spotters after the second fatal attack this year on 25 September 2022.
Much has happened behind the scenes. Except for the lifeguards that Bitou Municipality contract each season, ALL funding has been privately donated by many captains of business and private individuals, including donations of binoculars, drones, free wi-fi bandwidth if needed and much more is on its way.
Permissions have been obtained for the use of various high points at beaches and necessary equipment, clothing and other essential items are in the process of being procured.
It is estimated that the first signage will start making their appearance at our beaches by mid-October. Once appointed and trained, all shark spotters will wear clearly marked clothing.
Instead of ‘re-inventing the wheel’ the PSAG will be meeting with shark experts from Cape Town during the week of 3 October 2022 to understand what has been done in other areas that can be adapted for Plettenberg Bay.
The intention is to make use of and train as many local people as possible. Information relating to the progress of plans to make our waters safe for beachgoers have been and will continue to be distributed through Plett Tourism.
Anyone wishing to donate to this initiative to make our beaches and waters safer can do so by mailing their contact information and correspondence to PSAG on email address email@example.com.
*Conservation and preservation of our greatest assets; the ocean, waterways, forests, landmarks and wildlife in Plettenberg Bay, makes an ecologically and economically significant contribution to the town. Sharks, whales, dolphin and other marine life visit throughout the year – more often during the winter months between May and October. We encourage our residents and visitors to be aware of ocean safety at all times and be respective of our safety tools and respective to the wildlife that also visit our shores.
Dave Swart, Executive Mayor, Bitou Municipality