The City of Cape Town has published its report about the Fish Hoek shark attack that resulted in the death of a man, whose remains were not found. Here are their findings.
Following the tragic fatal shark attack on Mr Lloyd Skinner on Tuesday 12th January 2010 at Fish Hoek beach, the City of Cape Town undertook an intensive review of the events leading up to and following the attack. The purpose of the review is threefold:
1) To ascertain the correct facts so that these may be provided to the media and public so as to end ongoing speculation and incorrect perceptions;
2) To review the events as they unfolded to assess the effectiveness of the emergency response to this traumatic event; and
3) To identify any areas or aspects that may reduce the risk of similar events occurring in the future.
In addition it is hoped that by making these facts available to the public, the ongoing speculation in the media, which must be difficult for the victims’ family, will come to an end.
Through a process of eye-witness interviews, collaboration of information from specialists and collation of highly credible information, the following has been concluded:
Mr Lloyd Skinner was attacked by a Great White Shark at 15:31 on Tuesday 12th January 2010 at Fish Hoek beach. At the time of the attack Mr Skinner was swimming (and not standing as previously reported) in a direction parallel to the beach.
At the time of the attack there were approximately 12-15 other bathers in the water. Mr Skinner was significantly further out (in deeper water) than the other bathers and was some distance away from the other bathers.
We have been able to ascertain that a large school of fish was in the close vicinity of Mr Skinner and we are of the opinion that this school of fish is an important factor in drawing the shark into the area.
The shark attacked Mr Skinner from the sea-ward side in a very aggressive manner, demonstrating a predatory response. It approached from the deeper water underneath Mr Skinner and was only visible on the surface as it attacked the victim. This is consistent with natural predatory behaviour of Great White sharks in that they approach the victim without being seen. Following the initial strike, the shark made a further five to six passes of the area, after which it moved off in the direction of Kalk Bay.
On reviewing the Shark Spotting Programme the following was determined:
Two Shark Spotters were on duty: one at the mountain lookout and a second in the beach hut on Fish Hoek beach At the time of the attack, the Shark Spotting supervisor (Mr Monwabisi Sikweyiya) was present in the beach hut completing daily log forms.
Conditions for shark spotting at the time of the attack were not ideal. This is confirmed by the high wind speed (69km/h form a SSE direction), resulting in choppy conditions and intermittent cloud cover.
Water colour at the time of the attack was considered fair.
At the time of the attack the Shark Spotters Black Flag was being flown indicating to beach users these limitations in spotting ability. The Shark Siren as well as the radios were in working order.
In reviewing the Shark Spotting Programme the following must be noted:
Fish Hoek Bay is a large area and the mountain Shark Spotter is required to survey the entire bay and does not focus only on the Jaggers Walk area. It is unreasonable to expect 100% concentration from the spotters at all times. Shark Spotters are expected to scan the entire bay area repeatedly at regular intervals.
In the review the Shark Spotters acknowledged that they did not see the shark or the initial attack take place.
The spotting conditions were not ideal and were limited by significant wind induced chop as well as intermittent cloud cover and the associated shadows cast on the water.
The shark attack was sudden and explosive. All indications are that the shark emerged from deep water where it was not visible and attacked the victim within seconds once it was on the surface. All eye-witness accounts from elevated positions indicate that the shark was not visible prior to the attack.
However, the review notes that the water quality was such that, had the Shark Spotter on duty been looking at the specific area where the attack took place at the moment that the shark surfaced, the shark would not have been visible to the spotter.
However, this review is of the very strong opinion that had the spotter seen the shark prior to the attack, there would not have been any time to warn the bathers before the shark attacked the victim. The shark emerged from deeper water in a predatory mode and attacked the victim within seconds.
The review is of the firm position that, had the spotter seen the shark, the fatal attack would not have been avoided.
Lack of Shark Siren
The Shark Siren was not sounded during the attack or at anytime thereafter. During the interview with the Shark Spotters on duty the question was posed as to why the Shark Siren was not sounded. The response was that once they were aware of the attack, shock and fright set in. By the time they had recovered their composure, no bathers remained in the water, thus they felt that sounding the Shark Siren at that stage would have been of no benefit.
It must be noted that lifesavers on duty effectively cleared the beach of all bathers within a short period of time and without the use of the Shark Siren. No further risk to any other bathers resulted as a lack of the Shark Siren. However, this review holds the position that the Shark Siren should have been sounded as soon as the Shark Spotters were aware of the attack. This was a failure in respect to correct and appropriate emergency response. However, it is also acknowledged that none of the Shark Spotters had ever experienced a shark attack before and that shock and fright are reasonable human responses to such a traumatic event. Further emergency training is required in this regard and real-time practise scenarios should be included in the Shark Spotting Programme.
The spotters must be trained to deal with highly stressful situations and must be trained to respond accordingly. Emergency Response The attack took place in a matter of seconds and lasted approximately 3 minutes. Following the attack, the lifesavers actively cleared the remaining swimmers from the water, contacted the Shark Spotters at the Shark Spotting Hut to ascertain what the situation was and notified the National Search and Rescue Institute (NSRI) and Emergency Services. The Shark Flag was raised at the lifesaving club. Within 20 minutes Mr Ian Kloppers of the NSRI and EMT Emergency Services were on the beach and took control of all rescue operations.
Two NSRI boats as well as the rubber duck from the lifesaving club were launched to search for the victim while a helicopter arrived on scene to conduct an aerial search. The search for the victim continued until 7pm at which point it was terminated due to poor conditions. The search provided no recovery of the victim or any sightings of the shark. Officials from the City, NSRI, Western Province Lifesaving, Shark Spotters and Save Our Seas Shark Centre all convened at the site within 30 minutes of the attack and worked in a co-ordinated fashion to collect eyewitness statements, gather all relevant information and disseminate accurate information to the public and media. Shark Information Shark sightings recorded by the Shark Spotters over the last five years are included below for further information.
In addition it must be noted that shark warning media alerts were issued by the City of Cape Town and the NSRI throughout the summer. More specifically, warnings about a spike in the number of white shark sightings in the inshore area of False Bay were provided through the NSRI on Sunday the 10th January and via the City’s Festive Season Alerts on the morning of Tuesday the 12th January. These warnings explicitly indicated to the public that there was a high incidence of white shark sightings in the inshore area and that beach users should be particularly vigilant and cautious.
Permanent shark signs are present at Fish Hoek beach, including:
a) An indication of the natural presence of these predators in the waters of Cape Town;
b) The Shark Spotting Flag and Warning System.
Review Findings Based on this review the following conclusions are drawn:
Shark Spotters were on duty, the black flag was being flown indicating poor spotting conditions, the lifesaving club was on duty, and warnings of increased presence of white sharks had been provided on Sunday 10th January as well as on the morning of Tuesday 12th January.
The victim was swimming relatively far out and well away from the other bathers in the proximity of a large school of fish.
It is the position of this review that, within reasonable means, the fatal and tragic shark attack could not have been avoided.
The Shark Spotting Programme remains an effective early warning system for the presence of Great White sharks at recreational beaches.
The Shark Spotting Programme has, from the outset, never been considered a 100% effective safety strategy and acknowledges in the “Finding a Balance Report” of 2006 that limitations to the effectiveness include human error, visibility challenges and external conditions (wind, cloud, chop). Since its inception, Shark Spotters have recorded over 570 shark sightings and effectively cleared the beach, reducing the risk of shark attacks at beaches where they are operational.
The Shark Spotting Programme must continue to be supported.
The City should increase the size and visibility of shark information signage along its coastline. The City should consider mobile/temporary signage that could be erected on the beach and complement media alerts during times of high Great White shark presence.
The Shark Siren must be able to be sounded from the Lifesavers’ Tower. This must be rectified immediately.
The Shark Spotting Programme should invest further in emergency training of its staff regarding dealing with shark attacks. Practise / mock attacks should be conducted in conjunction with the NSRI and Western Province Lifesaving The City must, through its formal relationship with white shark researchers from the Save Our Seas Foundation and the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board, remain abreast of possible development of new technologies that would increase the level of safety across our coastline.
This is the second fatal attack in almost the exact location (Ms Webb was fatally attacked in November 2004 in the same area). It is recommended that the City install permanent signage in the area between the Galley Restaurant and Jaggers Walk and along Jaggers Walk indicating that it is unsafe for bathing due to shark presence and encouraging bathers to use the area closer to the lifesaving club for swimming.
The City should recommend to its communities (especially surfers and kayakers) that they have the choice to use personal shark shields. Scientifically reviewed tests conducted by the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board have shown these to be effective in deterring Great White sharks, although they are not guaranteed to be 100% effective. The data from the receivers located on the ocean floor in Fish Hoek must be downloaded by Save Our Sea researchers to assess whether the shark involved in the attack can be identified from a tag.
The City once again extends its condolences to the family and friends of Mr Lloyd Skinner on this tragic event. Finally, it is imperative that it is clearly stated and understood by all that Great White Sharks are naturally occurring species in our waters.
Although rare, sharks and shark attacks remain a part of our landscape, despite our best efforts.
Media Queries: Gregg Oelofse 083 940 8143 Sakhile Tsotsobe 0741850123