Surfers not scared off by recent shark sightings

Hot on the heels of Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, great whites have been spotted in the Bay Area once again.
One great white left a gnarly 18-inch bite mark on a 13-foot kayak off Pigeon Point on Aug. 14, while another was spotted Aug. 19 off Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

According to 10 years of research by biologists at Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station, adult great whites generally return to Central and Northern California between August and February after spending the spring in Hawaiian waters.

Despite several reported shark sightings this month, surfers continue to hit the waves, especially to escape the recent heat wave.

One San Francisco woman expressed concern about sharks, but not enough to pull her two daughters from the water at Ocean Beach.

“I do worry about sharks, but I’m more concerned with riptides and those kinds of things,” Shani Michaels said. “If I didn’t think it was safe, my kids wouldn’t be out there. You just have to be aware of the conditions.”

Stanford researchers, whose findings were published in November 2009 in the scientific journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B,
used acoustic tags to follow the migrations of 179 adult sharks between 2000 and 2008.

Ken Peterson of the Monterey Bay Aquarium said it is normal for sharks to congregate in rookeries near sea lion and elephant seal breeding colonies at this time of year. While these blubbery creatures are most tantalizing to great whites, sharks sometimes investigate other potential prey, which explains the discovery of two dead mother sea otters in San Luis Obispo County.

“The area from Tomales Bay towards San Mateo County tends to have higher numbers of sharks than other parts of California because they are two big sources of food,” Peterson said. “Pups and inexperienced animals entering the water are blubbery so they make a good meal.”

Surfers often deal with dangers and are not scared off by the recent sightings.

“I kind of want to see one!” said John Campbell, a surfer at Ocean Beach. “That’s just because I’m curious, I don’t want to get up close and personal or anything.”

As he was entering the surf at Ocean Beach, Luke Rosen said, “I’m not going to stop surfing because of sharks. They have as much right to be here as I do.”

shaughey@sfexaminer.com

Bay Area NewsLocal

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