Great white vanishing act: where have South Africa’s famous sharks gone?

Longline fishing, pollution, the arrival of orcas – what’s causing these crowd-drawing sharks to shun Cape Town’s waters?

For those who watch the waves, rocks and beaches for the distinctive silhouettes and dorsal fins, there is still hope. If the great white sharks are gone for now, they will return, one day soon.

Not so long ago, there were 200 or more annual sightings in South Africa’s False Bay of the most famous of sharks. The sheer numbers gathering around one island off the stunning curve of sand just east of the Cape of Good Hope and the city of Cape Town made it the “great white capital of the world”.

Mysterious and often misunderstood, the shark family is magically diverse – from glowing sharks to walking sharks to the whale shark, the ocean’s largest fish. But these magnificent animals very rarely threaten humans: so why did dolphins get Flipper while sharks got Jaws?

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