Paddling in Shark-infested Waters

January 27, 2010

I visited Fish Hoek, a nice little seaside town in the Cape area of South Africa last week. I confess that, of a range of seaside towns that we might have stopped at for a quick drink en route to the Cape of Good Hope, we picked Fish Hoek because a great white shark had eaten a man there just a week or so before. I cannot say that I am proud of this morbid curiosity and I won’t bother to dress it up as a David Attenborough mission, although obviously we had a camera ready just in case.

The flag on the beach was green when I was there. But I have had too many years developing a dubious view of official information to go beyond cautious ankle immersion, combined with careful study of the ocean to check for fins. What struck me in conversation with locals, including a man taking his son snorkelling, was that sharks are just a daily reality and that you either kept out of the ocean or became fully briefed on how to avoid them – watch the flags, stay within the kelp fronded area or stay short of the first breaker. Since it is unthinkable to live close to the ocean and never to venture in, you had better learn the avoidance techniques.

You can see where I am going with this. You cannot live without the Internet (OK, some people can, but {i}you{/i} cannot) so you need to be sure that you are shark protected. We are going to run a series of security-related articles and hope to help equip you to swim, cautiously but freely, in the shark infested areas that are of special concern to lawyers. My belated New Year’s resolution is to take the advice that we publish – I admit I am a bit ’do as I say, not as I do’.

I hope you realise, however, that neither I nor SCL nor its trustees are holding themselves out as experts on shark protection. You should take independent advice before entering shark-infested waters. Note in particular that green flags can go down as well as up.