Next time you take a stroll around the Predator Exhibit, you’ll spot our beautiful new mini-photographic exhibition of Cape Town’s tireless shark heroes. We commissioned Josie Borain and Bronwen Trupp to take these striking portraits of the Shark Spotters crew – those men and women who spend their days monitoring the most-used sections of Cape shoreline for sharks.
Shark Spotters is a proactive, early warning shark-safety service provided at strategic beaches around Cape Town, primarily in False Bay, where there is high spatial overlap between people and sharks. It uses continuous visual surveillance by trained observers (spotters) to detect sharks and prevent negative interactions between sharks and recreational water users, thus balancing the needs of both people and shark conservation.
The organisation employs 30 spotters and 10 exclusion-net crew members, all of whom come from previously disadvantaged communities in the Cape. Shark Spotters focuses on skills development to empower their employees and they provide extensive training for new and existing spotters. With a low staff turnover and high investment in the individual, Shark Spotters are developing priceless ocean ambassadors who share their passion and knowledge with local and international visitors as well as their own communities.
We at the Two Oceans Aquarium deeply admire the work done by these individuals and it was such a privilege, not only to be able to put up this homage at our ragged-tooth shark exhibit but also to welcome the Shark Spotters to the Aquarium for a special front-of-house and behind-the-scenes tour. Josie and Bronwen came along for the day and everyone got to see the ragged-tooth sharks … from the top!
“We are very fortunate to have been involved with the Shark Spotters research programmes for many years now,” says Two Oceans Aquarium Curator Maryke Musson. “Like them, we love sharks and we love learning about sharks and sharing that knowledge. We are also passionate ocean users. We swim, surf, dive, and are very proud of our partnership with the Shark Spotters app, which promotes the safe recreational use of our beaches. It is a magic fit.”
Josie and Bronwen first met, through their children, 10 years ago and have been collaborating on projects ever since. Josie is a former international model turned photographer who has photographed many international and local celebrities. Bronwen is a well-travelled ex Brit who is more likely to be found taking closeups of bugs! “This programme is super-important and it’s brilliant that it exists,” says Josie. “I’m sure there would be many more issues in the water if it wasn’t for the Shark Spotters! I’m very grateful for them, having a body-boarding kid myself.”
“It was fascinating to talk to them and see how extensive the programme is,” says Bronwen about the experience of photographing the Shark Spotters crew. “I had no idea there were so many of them! The best thing I learnt from the experience was the training they receive, from first-aid to flying a drone.”
The Aquarium has been collaborating with organisations like Shark Spotters for years to help change perceptions around sharks. We believe these graceful, majestic apex predators are fundamentally misunderstood, and want to help foster love, care and respect for these elegant and ecologically crucial creatures.
“In partnership with Shark Spotters the Two Oceans Aquarium is able to contribute to critical research on sharks and help build awareness and appreciation of these magnificent ocean creatures,” says Two Oceans Aquarium Communications and Sustainability Manager Helen Lockhart. “The Aquarium has also supported the development of the Shark Spotters app so that everyone can enjoy the oceans in a responsible and safe manner.”
How you can help
As a non-profit organisation, Shark Spotters appreciates all the help they can get. They’re currently running a wetsuit appeal, so if you have an old wetsuit that you’re not using anymore their Fish Hoek exclusion-net crew would be most grateful.
Definitely download the Shark Spotters app for up-to-date shark intel this summer (available for iOS and Android); you can also get some cool merch or make a donation on their website.