The Bronze Whaler shark
The Bronze Whaler shark is a species of shark that is not historically associated with shark cage diving, however, since 2017 we have frequently encountered these sharks during our tours to the point that they can affectionately be heard referred to as the golden sharks of Gansbaai. The Bronze Whaler shark is not as well known as other species such as the Great White shark, just the mention of the name can draw blank looks and requests for more information. It is for this reason that it only seems right to delve into the Bronze Whaler shark and give this species a little of the spotlight.
The Bronze Whaler shark is a species of requiem shark (Requiem sharks - a migratory, livebearing shark of warm seas, sometimes also found in brackish or fresh water) and is known as Carcharhinus brachyurus in the scientific community, the genus name Carcharhinus is Greek for sharp nose whilst the specific epithet brachyurus is derived from the Greek word brachy (short) and oura (tail). This species is also commonly known as the Bronze Whaler, Copper shark or Narrowtooth shark, with the common names having much to do with the bronze or copper colour seen on the sharks dorsal surface and the shape of its teeth. Interestly, the name whaler comes from the association of this species, and a few others, with whaling activity in the 19th century as large groups would gather around harpooned carcasses.
This species is found in warm temperate to subtropical waters of the Atlantic, Indo-Pacific and Mediterranean. This shark is the only member of its genus largely found in temperate rather than tropical waters (12°C and above). Bronze Whalers can be found from the surf zone to slightly beyond the continental shelf in the open ocean, diving to depths of 100m or more. This species commonly enters very shallow habitats, including bays, shoals, and harbours, and also inhabits rocky areas and offshore islands. Populations of Bronze Whaler sharks in both hemispheres perform seasonal migrations, in response to temperature changes, reproductive events, and/or prey availability; the movement patterns differ with sex and age.