When Hunter Becomes Prey
Diver|November 2017

When great white shark corpses started turning up with their livers missing, it took a while to piece together the story – and now South Africa’s cage-diving operators are living in fear that their golden days are numbered. RICHARD PEIRCE has this exclusive story

Richard Peirce
IN THE 1975 FILM JAWS, the presence of a great white shark threatened the prosperity of a fictional seaside town called Amity. In real life in 2016 and 2017 the absence of great white sharks threatened jobs and businesses in the South African town of Gansbaai.

Cage-diving with great whites occurs in South Africa around Dyer Island (Walker Bay), in False Bay, and in Mossel Bay. Of the three, Dyer Island, offshore from the town of Gansbaai, is by far the most popular with local and overseas tourists. This is the self-styled “Great White Shark Capital of the World”, with eight operators all doing up to three trips a day. They service thousands of tourists a year, and directly and indirectly provide hundreds of local jobs.

As well as the operators, restaurants, guest-houses, hotels, souvenir shops and others all derive benefit from great white shark eco-tourism.

Cage-diving around Dyer Island started in the late 1990s and has become a multimillion-dollar industry. The sharks were a money tree, and the good times were never going to end – until the sharks vanished!

Then the horrible reality sunk home that the leaves had all fallen off the money tree and been blown away.

In early 2016 the sharks disappeared for three weeks, and various theories were put forward to explain their absence.

In 2013 a pod of killer whales (orcas) had been seen in the area for the first time, with further sightings in 2015 and 2016. First a pod of six were seen, and then a pair of males with distinctive collapsed fins. The fin of one animal fell to the right and the other to the left – they were nicknamed Port and Starboard.

On 7 February, 2017, Port and Starboard were again spotted near Dyer Island, and the next day a dead 2.7m shark washed up on a nearby beach. The body was intact, but there were scratch-marks around its head.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM DIVERView All

The Wreck Of The Zenobia: Disneyland For Divers

The Zenobia is one of those wrecks most divers have heard of, even if they haven’t dived it, but what is that makes some return to Cyprus year after year to revisit the site? DAVID BAKER, Chairman of Richmond Sub Aqua Club, has been asking around

4 mins read
Diver
January 2018

Light Mares XR DCT/V/S

Light Mares XR DCT/V/S

5 mins read
Diver
January 2018

Camera Light Weefine Ring - Light

Camera Light Weefine Ring - Light

3 mins read
Diver
January 2018

Well And Truly Tested

MIKE WARD does the honours as a new Apeks regulator hoves into view – and for the rest, it’s all a matter of shedding light, with new products from Mares and Weefine

4 mins read
Diver
January 2018

When Hunter Becomes Prey

When great white shark corpses started turning up with their livers missing, it took a while to piece together the story – and now South Africa’s cage-diving operators are living in fear that their golden days are numbered. RICHARD PEIRCE has this exclusive story

4 mins read
Diver
November 2017

St Stephen Revisited

The Austrian-Hungarian dreadnought was taken by surprise by the brave crews of two Italian torpedo-boats, and the Szent Istvan became the only WW1 warship the sinking of which was captured on film. VIC VERLINDEN joins a technical-diving team to recover artefacts from the massive, deep-lying Adriatic wreck

4 mins read
Diver
November 2017

Two British Divers Die In Canary Islands In A Week

TWO BRITISH DIVERS died on consecutive Saturdays in September while on holiday dives in the Canary Islands.

1 min read
Diver
November 2017

Sewage Surfer Sets Sustainability Tone

THE FIRST Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2017 finalist images were revealed in September ahead of the announcement of the overall winners on 17 October and the opening on the 20th of the exhibition at the Natural History Museum (NHM) in London.

4 mins read
Diver
November 2017

Kimo, Zico And Me, Going Tec In The Red Sea

Through good times and bad, JAMES L’ESTRANGE has retained his faith in the power and poetry of diving from Sharm and the Gulf of Aqaba, and he makes an annual pilgrimage to Egypt. This August he decided that going tec would help him get fitter, too

5 mins read
Diver
November 2017

How Well-Covered Is Your Liveaboard Trip?

So you thought the Mystery Diver had retired? Never, not while there are services such as liveaboard-booking/ price-comparison websites to delve into!

7 mins read
Diver
November 2017
RELATED STORIES

Virtual Inspiration

As the reality of the pandemic shutdown sets in, technology can take travelers on a different kind of journey

5 mins read
Business Traveler
October/November 2020

Socially Distant Summer Fun in PBC

Summer has been extended! We are getting three extra weeks before public school starts here in Palm Beach County! What are some fun things to do while maintaining CDC recommendations for social distancing? PB Parenting has some great recommendations on what to do these final weeks of Summer!

4 mins read
Palm Beach Parenting
August 2020

WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS

Your images can open others’ eyes to the beauty— and the peril—of the undersea world

4 mins read
Scuba Diving
June 2020

SHOOTING SHARKS

Powerful images can advocate on behalf of these endangered beauties

3 mins read
Scuba Diving
May 2020

When a Whale Falls

When an enormous whale dies, its body sinks to the bottom of the ocean. There it provides food for thousands of deep-sea creatures.

1 min read
Ask Magazine for Kids
October 2019

At Your Own Risk: Finding Waves In Dangerous Waters

Reconciling the perfect waves and terrifying truths of Runion Island's shark-laden coast.

9 mins read
Surfer
September 2015

WHAT A WAY TO KICK OFF!

Aphelele Fassi was the one to watch when the Springboks thrashed Georgia

5 mins read
YOU South Africa
22 July 2021

ETCHED IN FOSSIL

Prehistoric climate change damaged the ozone layer and led to a mass extinction

4 mins read
Down To Earth
September 16, 2020

Exeter's power leaves the Sharks floundering

EXETER are a side who want to be unfazed by the pressure of these final championship rounds, and by securing this four-try away bonus point win to send Sale to their second successive defeat of the restart, they delivered on their mission statement in style.

2 mins read
The Rugby Paper
August 23, 2020

Curry orders Sharks to put on a killer show

BEN Curry wants his side to put on a performance that will turn part-time fans into diehard regulars when Sale Sharks take on Exeter Chiefs in this weekend’s only all-English European tie.

2 mins read
The Rugby Paper
December 8 2019