Cape Town beaches on shark alert after dead seal pups wash ashore

Large sections of Cape Town's beaches were put on high alert for sharks after hundreds of dead seal pups washed ashore over the past weekend. The 400 Cape Fur seals are thought to have died when they were swept off Seal Island, a rocky outcrop three miles off the coast, by strong winds and high seas. The deaths are a habitual occurrence but not normally in such large numbers. They prompted lifeguards working on beaches throughout False Bay, south of Cape Town, to be on high alert for the seals' main predator, the Great White Shark. Shark Spotters employed to survey the sea for the creatures said there had been increased activity along the shoreline and bathers were ordered out of the water several times. However, the seals' bodies were quickly rounded up and the authorities say there will be little disruption for the thousands of people expected to head to the coast for the start of the long summer holiday this week. Around 100 seal pups were discovered on two beaches on Friday near the south coast resort town of Muizenberg, 15 miles south of Cape Town. Another 300 were washed ashore 11 miles away on the north coast at the village of Kommetjie.

Wilfred Solomons-Johannes, a spokesman for Cape Town's disaster management department, said newborn pups were especially vulnerable in high winds and rough seas. "Sadly they didn't stand a chance," he said. "They were so young that they could not yet swim properly and when a big swell came they were swept away. "The seals were then thrown around in the sea before eventually being beached in the following hours and days. "Our team found hundreds of pups on the beaches and we had to organise a programme to clear them up." Experts believe that Great White Sharks are attracted to Cape waters by the presence of around 50,000 seals in a colony on Seal Island. Sarah Tipley, a spokesman for the Shark Spotters organisation which scouts for the predators along the coast and operates a flag warning system for swimmers and surfers, said four had been seen in the days following the seals' beaching. "We haven't seen any sharks scavenging on the seal carcases so it's unclear if their presence is because of the seals, but we're taking the necessary precautions," she said. In September, swimmer Michael Cohen, 42, who lost his right leg and part of his left foot in after he was bitten by a Great White shark at Fish Hoek beach in False Bay.