Sunday, July 02, 2006

Great White Shark sighting explains the warning signs

Warning signs are up at Stinson Beach today after a surfer spotted a great white shark.
Pat Norton, supervisory ranger with the National Park Service at Stinson Beach, said Lee Fontan spotted a 10-inch dorsal fin at the north end of Stinson Beach in the Bolinas Channel late Friday afternoon.

"It was about two and a half miles north of our swimming area," he said.

The beach remains open, but lifeguards have posted signs in the area warning people. The signs will be taken down Wednesday if there are no further sightings.

"Mother nature is out there," he said. "There's no controlling it."

Norton said this is the first shark sighting of 2006, but noted that Fontan was attacked by one in 2002. A 12 to 14-foot-long shark bit Fontan on the left side, causing leg and torso wounds that needed about 100 stitches to close.

Fontan could not be reached for comment today.

Nick Crieger, part owner of 2 Mile Surf Shop in Bolinas, said he heard the shark was spotted off Seadrift and swimming toward Stinson Beach where the water is deeper.

"That's where people see them," he said.

Crieger said he went down for a look shortly after the sighting and noticed that all surfers had left the channel and moved north toward an area known as the Patch on the Bolinas side.

"We let all our customers know that afternoon and the next day," he said.

More than two dozen shark attacks have been logged in the notorious "red triangle" - bounded by the Farallones, Tomales Point and Monterey - since 1972, when protection laws for marine mammals were enacted. These include at least nine attacks off the Tomales Point area, all non-fatal.

Scientists say the California seal and sea lion population has exploded since the passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Sea mammals are a favorite shark prey - and surfers and abalone divers in wet suits resemble sea creatures.

In 1998, Jonathan Kathrein of San Rafael was attacked at Stinson Beach. His wounds required 200 stitches.

About 110 shark attacks have been logged on the West Coast since the 1950s, including 11 that resulted in death.


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