Sunday, July 23, 2006

Great white shark sighting

A shark sighting has prompted Golden Gate National Recreation Area officials to post notices at Stinson Beach.

A great white shark was spotted at 6:30 p.m. Thursday about 2.5 miles off shore near the Bolinas Lagoon, park spokesman Michael Feinstein said.

Stinson Beach lifeguard Jeremy Williams said the shark appeared to be a 12-foot-long great white.

The sighting shouldn't be a source of major concern to visitors, Williams said. Sharks are always present in the ocean, and this one was fairly far from shore.

"They're here - it just so happens this one was spotted," he said.

The notices will stay up for five days. If another sighting is reported, or if a shark appears in the water closer to shore, officials could temporarily close the beach.

There have been 10 confirmed shark attacks off the coast of Marin since 1926, according to the International Shark Attack File administered by the American Elasmobranch Society and the Florida Museum of Natural History. None of the attacks were fatal.

A shark was sighted near the beach last month by surfer Lee Fontan, who was attacked off Bolinas in 2002 when a 12- to 14-foot-long great white bit him on the left side, causing leg and torso wounds that required 100 stitches to close.

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

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.
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.

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


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