By Adam Hartman
Several sharks were trapped in the Walvis Bay lagoon on Friday.
Bex Russell saw a 1,7 metre bronze whaler shark stranded on the mudflats near 'Millionaire's Mile'. The fish was said to be calm and sedate, probably suffering from lack of oxygen and exposure, according to Dr Simon Elwen of the Namibian Dolphin Project, who was alerted to the stranding.
The shark was refloated, and within a few minutes swam away into deeper waters.
Just over an hour later, there was a report of another shark stranded in a similar position. This animal was slightly smaller, and again calm and refloated easily. Within the next hour, two more sharks (one more bronze whaler and one smooth hound shark) were found by local residents, all successfully refloated.
Elwen said since the project was established in 2008, this was the first time they had witnessed shark strandings in the lagoon, although dolphin strandings are more common.
The Namibian understands that shark strandings in the lagoon is not new, and that it normally happens during a spring tide when there is a remarkable difference between high and low tides.
Elwen agreed that during spring tides, the water gets deep enough for the larger fish to enter the lagoon easier, going after prey. The problem is, during the low phase of spring tide, the water levels drop quickly and dramatically, leaving the sharks trapped in the shallows before they can get out into deeper waters.
Besides the spring tide, a sulphur outbreak aggravated conditions on Friday for the marine creatures in depleting oxygen levels and forcing them to the surface.
"While the sharks we have encountered so far are quite placid, bronze whaler sharks can and do bite, and wild animals are unpredictable and potentially dangerous, especially when stressed," said Elwen.
He encouraged the public to phone the Namibian Dolphin Project on 081 421 4968 or the WB Strandings Network through 081 602 1355 or 081 149 7377 for further assistance if they encounter any stranded sharks, or other creatures such as whales, dolphins or turtles.