Great White Shark vertical predation to increase chances of a successful hunt
Dusk and dawn through the winter period are the key times to keep your eyes peeled standing on Diaz Beach in Mossel Bay. As the inexperienced seal pups run to and from the island it is only a matter of time until you see one of these remarkable predators make their entrance onto the stage. With no warning at all a sudden explosion erupts through the surface with a gigantic shimmering body following it snatching a seal in the process. A flurry of shredded seal, foaming water and diving sea birds, then within the blink of an eye it is all over. The Great White Sharks hunting strategy feeds into the idea and the irrational "shark in a swimming pool" nightmare of the monster that you can't see. Although this iconic predator has captured the minds of people all around the world for the wrong reasons the real struggle and strife underdog story of the Great White is much more fascinating.
This video was taken at Seal Island in Mossel Bay a harbour town on the Garden Route in South Africa’s Western Cape Province. You can see other similar behaviour in some of the other clips on the channel.
In the video you see the sub-adult Great White approach the bait vertically from beneath before propelling itself out of the water. Even though this is not a natural predation as it was filmed next to a cage diving boat on a piece of bait it demonstrates the process of breaching. There is little to no warning the shark is coming as they are perfectly camouflaged under the water before accelerating upwards at high speed. If you are lucky you just manage to see a glint of white just before the shark breaks through the surface. This hunting strategy has served the Great White Shark well and has been paramount in its success but it isn't all that easy to be a Great White Shark. Over fishing, Bycatch, trophy fishing, ghost fishing gear, increased boat traffic, predatory Orcas, the fin trade and changing sea temperatures are all factors that are challenging the survival of the Great White Shark.
Quite often when a natural predation happens next to the cage diving boat, guests often show horror towards the shark and sympathy towards the seal. Understandable as generally we are not sheltered from the cruel realities of nature. When the crew shows illation for the sharks it quite often prompts responses of indignation and a feeling of insensitivity from the crew. We have to explain that we are not in fact cheering that an animal died but that we have just witnessed a part of nature that very few people on earth will ever get to witness and the animal we have a particular fondness for (the residential Great White Sark) has just secured himself more time to survive and thrive against all the odds.