Sarah Waries

Shark Spotters

What does your company do?

Shark Spotters is a pioneering shark safety and research organisation that has attracted international attention because of the novel way it pro-actively reduces interactions and conflict between recreational water users and white sharks. Started in 2004 in response to a spate of shark bite incidents and increased shark sightings, Shark Spotters is now the primary shark safety strategy used in Cape Town. Shark Spotters improves beach safety by applying innovative and responsible shark safety solutions that reduce the spatial overlap between people and sharks, thereby reducing the risk of a shark bite. We also provide emergency response in the event of a shark incident, as well as conduct cutting-edge applied research on shark behaviour and ecology, raise awareness about shark safety and conservation issues, and provide employment opportunities and skills development for shark spotters.

What is your biggest success?

My greatest achievement has been the development of a strong team of 40 individuals that are extremely passionate about what they do and are strong role models in their communities. We have a low staff turnover and high retention of staff and have made a tangible difference in the lives of each and every individual that has been part of our team. Working together over the years we have turned Shark Spotters from a small, grass roots initiative to a globally recognised leader in sustainable shark bite safety and a model example of an effective community conservation initiative. I believe this success is in a large part due to the strength of our team which I have been very proud to lead for the last 12 years.

What has been your biggest hurdle?

My biggest hurdle has been ensuring the sustainability of the organisation in the face of a rapidly changing world with shifting priorities and demands on the organisation. From an unprecedented drop in shark activity, to the push towards the incorporation of emerging technologies, to the Coronavirus pandemic, we work hard to ensure the program remains effective, relevant and responding to the needs of the community. I am responsible for the strategic development and overall success of the organisation and so have promoted an adaptive approach, flexible to changing demands on the programme and forging strong partnerships with funders and similar organisations in our field to ensure that we can continue to build on the strong foundation Shark Spotters has built over the past 12 years. Change is not always easy, but we know it is necessary for long term success and so we embrace it and use it as an opportunity to thrive!

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