Penguin Drop, Bottlenose Dolphins and First White Sharks for 2020
By Lloyd Edwards

Thursday, 16th July 2020

Rehabilitated Penguins taken home and first White Sharks at Bird Island

At last the opportunity presented itself! Debbie Layne from SANCCOB let us know that there were 28 blueies (juvenile penguins that still have a blue colour) that needed to be taken back to Bird Island some 65km from the port of Port Elizabeth. We do have an essential services permit to allow us to do this during the lockdown (our 2nd cruise on day 108 of lockdown). The penguins had been rescued off the island weeks before, as they were really underweight and would have died. The cold spell has not helped matters.

We met at the yacht club at 7am and started loading the birds onto “My China”. We had an amazing journey spotting numerous male humpback whales along the way. We off loaded the penguins at Bird Island and then took on some more juveniles that had almost succumbed to all the rain and bitterly cold weather. We will need to bring them back in a few weeks . . . luckily for us!

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We then headed back to Black Rocks with its 6000 strong SA fur seal colony. The seal pups are learning to swim and this is when the white sharks strike. They lie in wait in the deeper water just off the rocks and hit the unsuspecting pups from below. We did not have to wait long until the first white shark appeared. Not the biggest, but our first shark with our brand new permit. Although we have had the rights to white shark cage diving for three years, this was our first chance to try it out due to legal wrangling in the industry and of course Covid.

As can be seen in this video taken by Louis van Aard from Pro Dive, it was a beautiful encounter. No big teeth showing, no biting the cage, just how it should be . . . a gentle encounter.

 We are developing a new brand of white shark viewing which affords the sharks as little disturbance as possible. Please remember that it is because of shark cage diving that has led to people being educated about these magnificent animals. It has also fostered research and allows us to have a much better understanding about these animals. This has also led to our “Live Shark Project” which has been putting pressure on the Minister of Environmental Affairs to halt unregulated demersal shark long lining which is wiping out our inshore shark population. The meat goes to Australia to be served as “flake and chips” and the fins go to the East. The minister has taken the public pressure seriously and appointed a panel of nine scientists to investigate the industry. Remember that 60% of the white shark diet is made up of small sharks. Take these little ones out of the equation and the big ones will go elsewhere to find food. This is exactly what has happened in the Western Cape . . . no sharks for two years!

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We followed the coastline back to Port Elizabeth and had an amazing sighting of Indo-Pacific dolphins surfing the waves. Here we were treated to a school of what first looked like 400 then turned into 600 Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins. There were groups of them all over the show surfing down the face of the wave and shooting out the back. I managed to get some nice images of single animals with the Dunefields as a backdrop. 

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