Authorities in the Western Cape temporarily banned swimming and mobilised helicopter patrols after a large number of sharks, including Great Whites, were attracted inshore by shoals of game fish.
The rise in the number of sharks suggested that a hunting ban had been a conservation success, but had increased the risk to humans.
A crayfish diver was recovering in hospital after being mauled by a four metre ragged-tooth shark off Scarborough beach, near Cape Town.
Craig Bovim, 35, used his knees to fend off the predator after both his arms were caught in its jaws. Doctors hope he will be able to retain the use of his arms and hands after a four-hour operation to treat the lacerations and attach nerves.
Bans on bathing were immediately imposed and helicopters scoured False Bay for other sharks which have been sighted in the past few weeks, including at least five Great Whites, some reportedly more than six metres long.
It is summer in the southern hemisphere and with the holiday season resorts are packed and cities empty.
Despite the attack, many beachgoers complained about the ban and it has been lifted though lifeguards said it would be imposed again at the first warning from the helicopters swooping overhead.
Sharks have become a more common sight in recent years since Great Whites were declared a protected species.
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