A deceased great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) was reported to officials at the Dyer Island Conservation Trust (DICT) by Anton Barnard in Pearly Beach. At 7:00 the morning of the 9th February 2017, Marine Dynamics biologist Kelly Baker, the International Marine Volunteers and other staffmembers assisted to retrieve the animal with their Samel vehicle.
“From external observations we can confirm the juvenile shark is a 2.63 meter (total length) female,” Alison Towner, PhD Candidate, DICT said. “She had no obvious signs of trauma however after washing the sand off her at the International Marine Volunteers lodge, and duly advised by Dr Alison Kock of Shark Spotters, we measured and photographed any potentially interesting markings.”
There will no doubt be speculation that the recently spotted orca’s (Orcinus orca) are responsible for this mortality.
The DICT team was super excited to see orcas on the morning of 8th February in the area of Joubertsdam where the shark cage diving boats operate. They believe that these are the same two males that were spotted in the bay in October 2015, both with the collapsed dorsal fin. The last known sighting of these two was in Langebaan lagoon on the 17th of January. Orcas are believed to be the only natural predator of great white sharks. “The fact is we cannot confirm that orca’s were responsible for the death of this shark, it could be purely co-incidental,” Alison said.
Over the following few days the great white sharks seem to have moved away from the area.
The autopsy of this shark will take place at the Department of Environmental Affairs and will hopefully reveal more about the cause of death, which at this stage is very much inconclusive. “Professor Susan Dippenaar from University of Limpopo was on site with us and was able to sample live parasitic copepods from the shark’s mouth. Although we are always sad to lose one of our sharks, we do learn so much scientifically,” Alison said. “Interestingly the stranding site is where we have retrieved two dead whale shark (Rhincodon typus) carcasses in the past. It is an area known for strong currents.”