Analysis of sightings of white sharks in Gansbaai

Published on
15. March 2021

Analysis of sightings of white sharks in Gansbaai (South Africa)

P. Micarelli, D. Bonsignori, L. J. V. Compagno, A. Pacifico, C. Romano, F. R. Reinero


In Gansbaai (South Africa), at Dyer Island Nature Reserve, a large White shark population is present and can be observed due to the support of local ecotourism operators authorised to reach the field observation sites. Between 2009 and 2019, it was possible to create a database including information about each individual observed. In total, 423 white sharks were sighted during 462 direct observation hours from the boat, that included 220 hours from the diving “cage”. The mean sighting rate was 0.91 (range 0.18–1.53) sharks per hour and sighting rates dramatically declined in the last three years of the study period. Ninety-nine unique Photo-Ids of the dorsal fin were collected and only five re-sightings occurred, which indicate a transient behaviour for the Gansbaai White shark population. The sex ratio showed that females were always prevalent over males throughout the duration of the observations: the ratios were 1:2.2:0.8 for males, females, and unsexed sharks, respectively, and showed the prevalence of immature female individuals (immature: 51 males, 201 females, and 40 unsexed; adults: 49 males, 14 females, and 1 unsexed; undefined maturity: 5 males, 19 females, and 43 unsexed sharks). The predominance of immatures only applies to the females; there were as many immature males (51) as mature (49). The total length for all the individuals was between 150 cm and 500 cm (mean 308 cm, n = 423) with few young-of-the-year and adults recorded, indicating that Gansbaai Area is not a nursery area nor an adult aggregation site, but a seasonal feeding ground. The interannual sighting trend showed a consistent long-term increasing peak (ca. 4–5 years) and this could confirm that, in Gansbaai, the White shark frequency is not affected by ecotourism but, since 2017, a consistent loss of sightings was also due to recorded transient killer whales’ unusual fatal attacks.

The European Zoological Journal, 88:1, 363-374, DOI: 10.1080/24750263.2021.1892216


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