Johannesburg – A mother has been killed in the second fatal shark attack to hit the same popular tourist area this year. South Africa’s National Sea Rescue Institute said it was alerted just before 8am on Sunday morning and immediately launched a sea rescue vessel off a beach in the Plettenberg Bay area.
The woman’s body was found a few minutes later. The 39-year-old victim was identified as Kimon Bisogno, a pizza restaurateur who was well known in his local Cape Town community. She helped start a local soup kitchen that served pasta to the homeless every week.
Bisogno was on the beach with her husband and young child, on holiday several hundred kilometers from their home in Cape Town, at the time of the attack.
Dr. Sara Andreotti of Stellenbosch University has been studying great whites off the South African coast for the past 15 years and told CBS News that two attacks in one year are extremely rare.
“Globally, there are generally six shark deaths a year, so two in one area is almost unheard of,” she told CBS News
A 2016 study by the University of Stellenbosch found that there were around 500 great white sharks along South Africa’s coastline. Based on a wide range of factors, Andreotti expectsToday.
“There are 37 beaches on the South African coast which have some form of shark prevention measure, such as a shark net or drum line (bait hook), that would ensure that numbers have dropped even further,” she said.
The shark expert believes that education, not such harmful methods, is the best way to mitigate future attacks.
“Teaching local communities about shark conservation, such as seasonal changes for sharks, time of day for hunting, weather patterns to look for, can equip local people with the knowledge to best mitigate future attacks,” Andreotti said.
The local municipality of Bitou, where Plettenberg Bay is located, agrees and in May this year approved research into shark education measures.
Cape seal populations – food for great whites – are mainly based on islands off the coast or on more remote beaches, but experts say Plettenberg Bay is somewhat unique as there is a population of seals there that live closer to popular beaches.
Scientists say that some local knowledge of the local marine species can help in community preparedness.
At this time of year, when spring arrives in the southern hemisphere, seal pups born last summer are now old enough to hunt and venture further alone. For predators, the young seals are easy prey, making it an ideal time for hunting.
Sharks typically hunt in the early morning or late afternoon, depending on water visibility and weather patterns. Scientists hope that this kind of specific, local information, as well as shark spotters, drones and other measures, can help prevent further attacks and ease fear in beach communities.
Plettenberg Bay is a major tourist destination and local businesses have worried about the impact of the two latest attacks on the looming summer holiday season. The beaches of Plettenberg Bay remain closed.
“A fatal shark attack is a very traumatic event,” Andreotti acknowledged. She said they often make communities react by making quick, emotional decisions.
“As a global community, we have a much deeper understanding of measures we can take now to mitigate, as best we can, future attacks without threatening shark populations or throwing whole, very fragile ecosystems out of balance,” she said.