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07/14/2023 Boat Eastern Cape Province, South Africa No Injury

2023 Shark Attacks the Latest Shark Attacks and Shark Attack Related Incidents which include Fatal Attacks to minor injuries bites and attacks where the person fought an aggressive shark.
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07/14/2023 Boat Eastern Cape Province, South Africa No Injury

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Shark bites, deflates boat full of people during sardine run

While observing marine wildlife off the coast of South Africa, a wildlife veterinarian and her students nearly found themselves in the Atlantic when a shark in search of lunch chomped down on their inflatable boat, causing it to deflate rapidly on one side.

When Emily Cehrs boarded a Safari4U dinghy one bright June morning, she knew she was in for an exciting day. She and her students were headed out into the ocean to witness the sardine run, which was sure to provide some up-close wildlife encounters.

What she didn’t expect was to nearly join the wildlife in the water after a hungry shark accidentally bit the inflatable boat.

“When you get slapped in the face by a shark and then it bites your boat and deflates it,” Cehrs wrote in a recent Instagram post. “Dolphins and sharks surrounded a bait ball underneath our dinghy. The shark got a little too excited and took an accidental bite out of our boat and deflated it a bit. Still one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had.”

As the video shows, the water surrounding the dinghy is more than a little turbulent as countless dolphins and at least one shark converge on a bait ball directly under the boat. Suddenly, the tail fin of a frenzied shark whips out of the water, slapping against one of the inflated sides.

Though it’s not immediately visible, the shark also bites the boat, leaving several large gashes in the material. Thankfully, staff on board had an air pump handy and were able to re-inflate the boat multiple times. This allowed everyone to make it slowly but safely back to shore.
The shark was interested in the sardines, not the boat

Though the shark did deflate the boat with its bite, it did so purely accidentally. The shark had no interest in the boat, nor the humans on board. Instead, it was frantically munching on as many fish as its heart desired, thanks to the sardine run.

So, what exactly is a sardine run? Why were there so many dolphins, sharks, and other predators in one place? Well, the sardine run is an annual event in which billions of sardines spawn near the coast of South Africa.

With countless bait fish in a single area at once, the outcome is obvious: feeding frenzies. Using their astounding hunting prowess, dolphins who flocked to the area in anticipation of the run first work together to herd the sardines into bait balls, some as much as 65 feet in diameter.

Now, forming a bait ball is meant to be a defense mechanism for the schooling fish. Sardines group together in a tightly packed cluster when threatened.

The idea is that a massive group is less likely to fall victim to a predator than a single fish. In instances such as this one, however, it only attracts more attention from predators. An enormous cloud of fish stretching dozens of feet across is far more visible than a single sardine.

With the hard work completed thanks to the dolphins, other predators descend on the now-centralized prey. Sharks, birds, sea turtles, penguins, and whales are among the most common guests at the fish feast. And, of course, thousands upon thousands of dolphins.

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