24 June, 2013 24 June, 2013

The Hills Have Eyes – Keeping Track of the Sardines (and Sharks)

Similar to the service offered by Cape Town’s Shark Spotters, the @HillsHaveEyesSA social media campaign on Twitter is fast becoming an essential source of information for ocean users on the east coast.

This free service will be especially useful during the annual sardine run – when winter perfection rolls in at our favourite spot, but schools of sardines make surfing them a high-risk due to the feeding frenzy which follows them.

Looks empty, but is it?

Looks empty, but is it?

With contributors dotting the landscape and reports coming in from all over, @HillsHaveEyes will make sure you know just where the shark or sardine activity is currently taking place – something that can help us avoid a meeting with the landlord – like at Queensberry Bay last week.

Port Alfred surfer and Daily Dispatch reporter David Macgregor takes a closer look at the @HillsHaveEyes service in this report below.


THESE HILLS HAVE EYES – Keeping Track of the Sardines (and Sharks)
by: David Macgregor


A groundbreaking social media campaign that accurately tracks marine movement along the coast for free on Twitter is making waves among sardine run-scared surfers.

Although the main aim of the @HillsHaveEyesSA initiative is to provide marine wildlife watching operators and tourists the latest accurate sightings of sardines, it is however fast becoming a valuable resource for everybody from surfers, to swimmers and divers keen to avoid the bait ball, as well as anglers hoping to fish the feeding frenzy.

Queensberry Bay surfer Dave Boatwright – who was with Kevin Bracey when an unseen shark ambushed him from below last week at the Point – said he would have thought twice about surfing that Sunday if they had recieved the Twitter feed warning about two small bait balls a few kilometres away at Gonubie.

Bracey had a lucky escape when the shark attacked from below and ripped a large chunk out of his board – narrowly missing his leg.

Gannets or other seabirds are always a good indication of bait fish activity.

Gannets or other seabirds are always a good indication of bait fish activity.

Boatwright yesterday told Saturday Dispatch they only heard about the nearby sardine activity from friends after the incident and wished he had known about the free Twitter feed before they paddled.

“I think it is a brilliant idea… It is excellent – especially for this time of the year.” he said.

He admitted most surfers had “no idea” what was happening a few points away down the coast.

@HillsHaveEyesSA co-founder, Phanor Montoya-Maya – who is piloting the world first Twitter shark watch feed with renowned Natal South Coast shark free diver Mark Addison of Blue Wilderness, said the unique community partnership had no equal anywhere in the world.

He said a long term aim of the project was to secure sponsorship to create jobs for local communities dotted along the coastline watching marine movement and using social media to publicise the latest information.

This would attract tourists to the area where the activity was spotted instead of waiting for weeks in bigger centres.

Eco tourism is huge all over the world and the annual sardine run is considered one of the world’s greatest annual natural migrations.

He said the project – if successful – would provide hundreds of direct 8:00am – 5:00pm jobs for spotters on hills with binoculars and many more economic spin-offs for rural communities.

As the project expanded the benefits would become greater and the whole coast would eventually be covered.

The information would also be useful for marine scientists keen to get more acurate daily sightings.

“This is citizen science research at its best and will provide valuable information in the long run.”

Former surfing world tour campaigner Greg Emslie – who had a narrow escape himself a few years ago when he was circled by a four metre great white at the same spot where Bracey was attacked – said the latest sardine updates provided much needed insights into what was going on around the corner at nearby spots.

“I have been using it (Twitter) since the launch, and it is pretty cool to know what is happening in the sea.”

He admitted he prefered not to hit the water if sharks were in the area,.

“I would advise all surfers to use the feed.” claimed Greg.

You can follow Hills Have Eyes on Twitter @HillsHaveEyesSA, on Facebook, or on their website www.hillshaveeyes.co.za free of charge.

1 Comment

  1. gwav
    25 June, 2013 at 5:57 am · Reply

    Good thing this – support and distribute widely,,,,

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