Great white sharks have mysteriously disappeared from one of their most popular hunting grounds – and invading orcas can be to blame.
Killer whales are the only natural predator of the great white man and scientists have found evidence that they open them and eat their fatty livers.
Scientists speculate that this may be behind the disappearance of large whites from the waters of False Bay, a celebrated hunting ground off the coast of Cape Town.
Between 2010 and 2016, shark spotters recorded an average of 205 large white sightings per year in a section of 600 square miles of the Atlantic Ocean.
In 2018 they were only 50 and so far none of the feared great white shark has been seen this year.
Pollution, climate change and overfishing of their natural prey have also been suggested as possible causes for the disappearance of the mystery.
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Great white sharks (photo) have mysteriously disappeared from one of their most popular hunting grounds in South Africa – and invading orcas may be the culprits
Between 2010 and 2016, shark spotters recorded an average of 205 large white sightings per year in False Bay, near Seal Island (photo). The 600 square mile section of the Atlantic is a popular hunting ground, but the sharks have not been seen this year. Tourists hoping to see the large white cages now have to travel along the coast to Gansbaai
Killer whales are the only natural predator of the Great White and scientists have found evidence that they cut them open and eat their fat livers with an incision between the pectoral fins of their prey
It is two years ago that the Shark Spotters Applied Research Program picked up a signal from one of the great whites tagged by scientists and living in False Bay.
This is after five large white sharks washed ashore along the South African coastline in 2017 with gaping wounds by their side, their livers being eaten by two orcas in the area.
The killer whales bite a large crack in the side of the large whites after an attack as a couple and then suck out the fatty liver, which is 600 pounds of meat delicacy in a phenomenon that has only recently been discovered.
The two Orca & # 39; s who are responsible – known as Port and starboard because their dorsal fins hang left on one and right on the other – rejected their natural prey as seals that had developed a taste for shark.
The large white population in False Bay has not returned to face their arch-enemy, but it is hoped that they will return to their usual hunting grounds over time.
Marian Nieuwoudt, a Cape Town environmental officer, said: “There are no traces of bite marks from large whites on one of the whale carcasses that the city had removed from the false bay this year, which usually indicates their diet.
& # 39; As far as we know, the absence of large whites from False Bay has not been registered before and we do not currently know why they suddenly became AWOL. & # 39;
Large whites visited the area every year between June and October as part of their annual winter hunting season.
They were drawn to the region by the presence of the so-called Seal Island, a granite rock in the middle of False Bay, which is home to a huge colony of Cape fur seal seals.
Over time, the predators learned a new hunting technique to break on the island, grab a seal and retreat to the safety of the waters.
This breeding ground of the top predator has registered some of the largest large whites ever.
Approximately 350 to 525 large whites roam the coast of South Africa after a study was completed in 2014, but the current population is unknown.
It is thought that there can only be a few hundred of the sharks in the world.
The 70 mile coastline around False Bay is filled with the warm waters of the Aghulhas current that attracts the great whites.
The city of Cape Town has now decided to move its official shark spotters that keep the beaches in False Bay safe to other famous shark areas until the big whites return to the Cape coast.
Pollution, climate change and overfishing of their natural prey have also been suggested as possible causes for the disappearance of the mystery
The desolation of the area comes after five large white sharks have been washed up along the South African coastline with gaping wounds on their side, their livers being bitten by two orcas in the area
Dive companies with local shark cages that attract ecotourists and documentary makers who see the predators and swim close to them significantly increase the Cape economy
Approximately 350 to 525 large whites roam the coast of South Africa after a study was completed in 2014, but the current population is unknown. It is thought that there can only be a few hundred of the sharks in the world
Diving companies with shark cages that attract ecotourists and documentary makers who see the predators and swim close to them significantly increase the Cape economy.
Sea biologist Alison Towner of the Dyer Island Conservation Trust said: “A study in California has shown that great white sharks were attacked by orc's pods and drifted away from food grounds.
& # 39; This is a complex issue that we are trying to understand, but we do know that orcas have regional implications for large whites, as seen in South Africa, California and Australia,
& # 39; Although the presence of killer whales & # 39; s will have a clear effect on large whites, many other factors play a role, and my research is ongoing in Gansbaai where they have just returned after an absence of two years & # 39 ;.
The city of Cape Town added: “Residents and visitors should remain vigilant and careful when visiting beaches in False Bay, as shark spotters regularly observe other large sharks on the coast.
& # 39; Although these are not as important to water users as great white sharks, it is better not to be near them, especially if there is natural prey in the area.
& # 39; The great whites can return at any time, so we urge all water users to act responsibly and leave the water when they hear the sirens or are instructed by lifeguard shark spotters to do so & # 39 ;.
The Western Cape of South Africa has some of & # 39; the world's best Great White Shark cage diving and thousands of adrenaline-hungry tourists come here to pay £ 150 each year to go with them.
False Bay is the largest bay in South Africa and Seal Island is only 3 miles off the coast with its deep water and 60,000 seals was one of the best places for predators to break through with seals in their jaws.
Tourists hoping to see the Whites of cages now have to travel up the coast to Gansbaai until they return.
The 70 mile coastline around False Bay is filled with the warm waters of the Aghulhas current that attracts the great whites, but no one has been seen this year
it is believed that the complete lack of sightings of great white sharks in the area is the first time in recorded history. Experts said: we currently don't know why they suddenly became AWOL & # 39;
The two killer whales responsible for the exodus – known as port and starboard (photo) because their dorsal fins hang on one left and right on the other – rejected their natural prey as seals that developed a taste for shark
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