Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Presence of Great White sharks has nothing to do with Jaws

Three years ago this month, 50-year-old Deborah Franzman of Nipomo was killed by a great white shark while swimming at Avila Beach. A year later, a great white took a bite out of a young surfer's board off Pismo Beach. A month after that, a great white was observed cruising off Morro Bay's south jetty.

This month, seven otters have been chomped on by a great white and, Friday, there was a shark sighting at Avila Beach.

It appears that Jaws is back.

Should we be afraid of taking a dip in our local waters? Cautious, yes; fearful, no.

Scientists have known for years that at least one great white lives off Point Buchon near Diablo Canyon. It's an ideal environment: The ocean floor rises steeply near Point Buchon, bringing up cold, nutrient-rich waters that feed sealife and a huge concentration of seals and sea lions -- the blue-plate specials for great whites.

But even with an abundance of such food, sharks of all stripes and types are known to cruise beyond their immediate haunts.

Our beach cities should think regionally when there's a shark sighting. If a shark is spotted in Avila Beach, then Pismo Beach and Morro Bay should also post signs saying so.

Although we'll stay out of the water for the next couple of days, the good news is that shark attacks are extremely rare. On average each year, there are fewer than 100 fatal shark attacks reported from around the world. Fatal lightning strikes and bee stings each far exceed this number.

Here are some suggestions for lessening the odds of an attack:

• Don't swim with seals or in waters that are teeming with bait fish.

• Avoid the water if you're bleeding, even a little bit.

• Don't swim at dusk or dawn, favorite feeding times for sharks.

• Stay out of the water if a fishing boat is nearby.

• Swim in a group.

• Don't wear metal or jewelry.

If a shark does take an interest in you, "playing dead" won't help.

George Burgess of the International Shark Attack File, an organization that studies sharks, skates and rays, says "be as aggressive as you are able. Pound the shark in any way possible. Try to claw at the eyes and gill openings, two very sensitive areas."

Hmmm. Did we say we'll forgo an ocean dip for the next couple of days?
Better make that a week.

Great White shark on the prowl

Shark advisory signs will welcome visitors at Avila Beach and Port San Luis for two more days after a reported shark sighting.

About 7 p.m. Friday, a 12-foot shark was seen chasing four harbor seals in the port’s mooring area, according to Carolyn Moffatt, president of the Port San Luis Harbor District board.

The shark appeared to be a great white, and it was hunting, she said.

"The important thing to remember is that great whites are not predictable," Moffatt added.

Waters are off-limits until 9 a.m. Wednesday. The beach remains open.

The Port San Luis Harbor District, which oversees Avila Beach, has a policy that makes waters off-limits for five days after what officials deem a credible sighting.

The district adopted the policy in 2003 following a fatal shark attack that summer at Avila Beach.
Avila waters also closed for the first five days in August after a shark was reported a mile off the Guadalupe coast.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Beach closed during busy weekend due to shark sighting

A shark sighting in Avila forces officials there to close the beach during a busy summer weekend.
Last night a shark, thought to be a great white, was spotted about a mile offshore.

Two fishermen reported seeing the shark just off the side of the pier next to a boat launch.
Harbor patrol immediately closed the beach to all swimmers, leaving some people hanging out to dry.

"We always go in. I do at least, to body surf and body board or cool down. So, it's sad," said Kara Miller.

"I probably wouldn't go in if there were a shark in the water. It's not something I'm willing to take a risk for," said Robert Allen.
Just last month, the year's first confirmed great white shark sighting was reported.

That shark was spotted about four miles southwest of the Pismo pier.

Shark safaris...quite an experience!

Sharks are offshore. Go see.

Da-dum, da-dum, da-dum-da-dum-da-dum
Fear not. There’s no danger.

“We’re on a steel boat,” says Charles Avenengo, a marine educator. “We’re safe, unless of course the boat sinks.”

That hasn’t happened in Avenengo’s 14 years of oceanographic outings. Mostly they involve whale watches and seal watches. But now, for the second summer in a row, the Newport man is leading a series of shark safaris for the Audubon Society of Rhode Island.

It’s generally not what people associate with the society.

“Audubon isn’t just for birds or land environments,” says Kristen Swanberg, the society’s senior director of education programs. “We’re connecting people with nature.”

In Rhode Island, Avenengo says, the connection with sharks has been limited largely to stereotypes and misconceptions, not to the sharks themselves. Access is an issue.

“As it stands now, the only people who can see sharks are fishermen and divers,” Avenengo says. “These trips represent a chance for regular civilians to go see sharks.”

Prior to last year, Avenengo says, the opportunity to go shark watching existed only in San Francisco. There was nothing in New England, he says, except for a caged shark watch out of Galilee, which requires scuba certification.

All that’s required on this expedition, Avenengo says, is a fascination with sharks, which he says comes naturally. “Everyone is wide-eyed when they see sharks.”

You might see a hammerhead, a great white or a basking shark, but by far, Avenengo says, blue sharks are the most common around here. And he does mean around here: Rhode Island Sound, disconcerting as that may seem.

“It’s traditionally been a very rich hunting ground for sharks,” Avenengo says. “Indeed, there are lots and lots of sharks in our water.”

The shark safaris aboard the 95-foot Seven B’s leave from Galilee and go southeast of Block Island. Millions of years of history says blue sharks should be there now, according to Avenengo. Then they’ll migrate to Europe for fall, Africa for winter, South America for spring and back to New England for summer.

“They’re everywhere, and very successful,” Avenengo says.

Think Jaws. Now, Avenengo says, set the movie in Rhode Island, which would be accurate. Much of the film, he says, has connections to the state.

The late Robert Shaw portrayed a shark-fishing captain reportedly based on Frank Mundus, of Montauk, N.Y., who hunted sharks in Rhode Island Sound. And Richard Dreyfuss played a marine scientist based on Jack Casey, who’s now retired from Narragansett Bay Laboratory and its Apex Predator Lab.

While the location and the characters in Jaws may be based on reality, Avenengo says, the plot’s not. The 1975 movie, directed by Steven Spielberg and based on the book by Peter Benchley, is sensational.

“Nobody in New England has been attacked by a shark in over 50 years,” Avenengo says. “The chances are 100 times greater you’d die of bee stings, dog bites or a crash on the highway.”
In fact, he says, if you must fear, fear for the sharks.

“They eat about 10 of us a year,” he says. “We eat about 100 million of them.”

Generally, he says, it’s not people in America who kill and eat sharks, but people in Asia, who fancy shark fin soup and sushi.

PEOPLE WHO take the Audubon shark safaris, which are 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday and again on Sept. 6 and 13, learn a lot about sharks before they see them. During the 90-minute ride from Narragansett to just beyond Block Island, Avenengo delivers a shark lecture and shows a video about them.

“They are terrifying,” he says. “When we’re in their environment, we are pretty helpless.”

However, we’re also unappetizing. “We wear clothes and suntan lotion,” Avenengo says. “Surfers have neoprene wetsuits, which don’t taste good to sharks.”

Sharks, which are at the top of the oceanic food chain, along with orcas, can eat anything they want, Avenengo says. Nothing escapes them and their eight senses, which includes one for orientation, another for vibrations and another for electromagnetic energy.

“They can pick up a flounder buried under the sand,” he says.

They can also pick up the scent of a single drop of blood from a great distance. So bring out the chum, cut-up bloody fish used to attract sharks.

“The sharks will pick up the scent and go to the source, which in our case is us,” Avenengo says. “That’s their job. They are superb predators.”

Therein lies the appeal of sharks, seeing something so powerful so close. The ones that get very close to the boat will be tagged for an ongoing National Marine Fisheries Service study. That’s how scientists track their migration, just as they do with whales and seals.

Those sea creatures also attract lots of interest, but, Avenengo says, the experience of seeing them is very different.

“Nothing tops seeing a 40-ton humpback whale leap out of the water. It evokes tons of emotions. But they’re less reliable in our waters here. Seals, while not as exciting, are much more predictable. They’re on the rocks. They’re just there. They’re always there. Sharks are not as reliable as seals, but they provoke utter fascination.”

“Nobody,” says Avenengo, “will ever say of a shark, `how cute.’  ”

The Sharks Safaris are Monday and Sept. 6 and 13, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., aboard the Seven B’s, which departs from the docks in Galilee. Tickets are $78 for Audubon members and $88 for nonmembers. For reservations, call (401) 949-5454, ext. 3041, or e-mail
programs@asri.org. Participants may bring lunch or buy lunch aboard the boat. Warm clothes, sunscreen, hats, binoculars and motion-sickness medication is advised.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Elizabeth Taylor embarks on a Great White shark expedition

She has been married eight times - so it can safely be assumed she has tangled with her fair share of predators in her time.

With that in mind, Elizabeth Taylor's most recent excursion - despite her years and frail health - might not have proved such a problem for her.

In what appeared to be an extraordinary new bid to prove her vitality after a slew of reports about her ill-health, Miss Taylor booked herself onto a great white shark expedition.

Seemingly oblivious to her ever-deteriorating health, the 74-year-old wheelchair-bound actress enjoyed a two hour, six mile round trip, on a specialist shark-viewing boat off Hawaii.

Never a stickler for convention, the Cleopatra actoress decided not to dress up for the occasion. Instead, she sported a kaftan-style nightdress over navy blue slipper socks.

Evidently going for comfort over style, she also decided against any make-up, instead opting for the bare faced look.

After emerging from her chauffeur-driven car, with the help of two aides - and her pet Maltese dog, Daisy - she made slow and painful progress to her boat for the day, the Kainani.

Winched up and out of her cumbersome black wheelchair, she clambered onto the deck of the 32-foot long chartered vessel. Chatting to friends, she looked happy and relaxed as the boat set sail, heading towards the nearby shark grounds.

Of course being a Dame - and a double Oscar winner - does grant an ageing actress certain privileges.

So, rather than donning the obligatory bikini, mask and snorkel, and plunging into the ocean herself, she left this part of the £52 trip to other members of her crew.

From the comfort of an open-air deck, where various soft drinks and snacks were being served, she watched her companions lower themselves into the 10ft by 6ft Plexiglas cage to view, nose to nose, an array of Galapagos and Sandbar sharks.

Miss Taylor's exciting excursion took place in North Oahu in Hawaii where she is currently holidaying.

It is a rare trip abroad for the Dame. For the past few years she has remained a reclusive figure, plagued with ill health, and largely holed up in her Hollywood mansion.

As well as incurable congestive heart failure, near-fatal viral pneumonia and osteoporosis, she has had three hip replacements and a life-saving operation in 1997 to remove a benign brain tumour. The combination of drugs used to treat the actress has left her bloated and often drowsy and confused, prompting tabloid speculation that was suffering with Alzheimer's and on her deathbed.
But in her first screen appearance for three years, she went on American chat show Larry King Live to dispel the rumours.

"If they want to hear that I'm dead, well sorry folks, I'm not," she declared. "And I don't plan on it either. I don't even think about it. Do I look like I'm dying? Do I look like or sound like I've got Alzheimer's?

"I think they are trying to sell magazines and the only way they can do it is by being dirty. They've never sold those dirty magazines with clean stories.

"They have nothing else dirty to write about anybody else that's all I can think of.

"Some audience out there, and don't ask me who they are, but there are millions, they like scandal, they like filth."

Fishermen surprised by Great White shark fighting for same catch!

"Rockcod fishing off the Central Coast has been better in the last two years than ever before."
That was the assertion by Santa Maria's Paul Domingos after a fabulous two days on the water last weekend. Charlie Cabassi of Arroyo Grande echoed Domingos' sentiments.

"Twelve of the 14 halibut brought in last Sunday weighed over 20 pounds," noted Tammy Schuyler from her post at Port Side Marine.

Domingos, a fourth- generation Santa Marian, has been probing the ocean for healthy, plump fish for 29 years.

Domingos' dad, Carl, 62, and Don Vierra of Paso Robles had a "great white shark experience" to punctuate their Saturday.

"My dad had a nice red rockcod hooked but it was devoured by the shark," Paul Domingos said, "who proceeded to swirl slamming its tail against the stern of my boat and knocking it at a
45-degree angle."

There was a reward for the trio — 18 red rockcod that weighed between 5 and 10 pounds and topped by lingcod weighing 23, 15 and 12 pounds. That's a spectacular day of fishing.
"We used 7- to 12-inch artificial lures and caught nothing but big fish," Paul Domingos said.
Trolling netted halibut weighing 35, 24, 22 and 18 pounds. The fish were weighed on Paul Domingos' certified digital scale.

"The fishing is phenomenal," he said. "I don't have any problem getting a limit of rockcod."
Charlie Cabassi of Arroyo Grande and his son, Mike along with Rich Zeilenga of Oceano and his father, Bob, of Arroyo Grande, shared an angling bonanza, too.

"We stopped seven fish short of four limits of rockcod because our large ice chest couldn't hold any more fish," Charlie Cabassi said.

The catch included a 13-pound cabezon, reds between 8 and 10 pounds in addition to 31.6-pound halibut.

"I've never seen rockcod fishing any better than it is right now," said Charlie Cabassi, 68, who has fished coastal waters for more than 30 years.

"Four years ago I bought a boat with a 120 hp diesel. It's fuel-efficient and only costs me $30 for fuel to go fishing. Some of my friends are spending $2

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Following shark attack, people question how to prevent another one

QUESTIONS surrounding the cause of shark attacks are once again rising to the fore after Achmat Hassiem (24), a lifesaver with the False Bay Lifesaving Club, lost his foot in a shark attack during lifesaving exercises at Sunrise Beach on Sunday morning.

Graham Lewis, chairperson of the False Bay Lifesaving Club, was quoted as blaming chumming in the area for changing the behaviour of sharks, an assertion contested by shark researcher Alison Kock.

"Chumming had nothing to do with this incident or any other shark attack," Kock says. "When Lyle Maasdorp's kayak was attacked two weeks ago at Sunny Cove, we chummed the water afterwards to try and attract that shark. We needed to tag it in order to monitor its movements and prevent simi?lar attacks from taking place.

"This was ten days ago. We made sure the currents would carry the chum out to open waters and had people stationed at all the beaches in the area to ensure no-one entered the surf during the operation. Despite these efforts, we didn't succeed in attracting a single shark.

"It is ridiculous to suggest chumming attracts sharks or changes their behaviour. The sharks are already here. We are only attempting to study why. People are entering the shark's habitat and should take responsibility for their actions," Kock says.

Gregg Oelofse, the City of Cape Town's representative on the Shark Working Group, agrees with Kock, saying that blame for attacks cannot be assigned to factors such as chumming or shark cage diving.

"A report on bather versus shark safety will be released very soon but the sad fact is there isn't really a solution to these attacks. Everyone knows False Bay is a hunting ground for great white sharks. Environmentally speaking, shark-nets are not an option as whales and dolphins get entangled in them. They have also been found to be ineffective when dealing with great whites. As unfortunate as it is, sometimes attacks just happen."

He did, however, confirm that the city is considering placing a moratorium on the number of cage di?ving licenses issued as well as pla?cing stricter controls on operators conducting cage diving tours.

On the other hand, questions about the wisdom of conducting training exercises in the notoriously dangerous stretch of beach near the Sunrise Circle river mouth have been raised by witnesses to the attack.

"I can't understand how they could go and swim near that river mouth," says Surfer Nick Vink. "As lifesavers they should have known to stay away from the area."

Paul Botha, local surf guru and director of Life's a Beach Communications, confirmed that every surfer knows not to surf near the river mouth. "A surfer lost his leg in that very area two years ago when the council opened the river mouth. The recent rains we had caused a strong river flow into the ocean, which churns up food for little fish. This, in turn, attracts big fish, which will eventually probably draw sharks," Botha says.

The lifesaving training during which Hassiem was attacked took place too far out to sea for the shark spotters to monitor. When People's Post tried to elicit comment on the particulars of the exercise, club chairperson Graham Lewis declined to comment.

New electronic shark repellent may prevent shark attacks

Being bitten by a shark must be a terrifying experience. I have been surfing for 28 years, and go out in False Bay at least twice a week. I also work for a science-based organisation - WWF - that seeks to protect and enhance the wellbeing of humans by trying to ensure we do not irresponsibly destroy the environment.It is in this context that I express my deep empathy with Achmat Hassiem, the 24-year-old lifeguard whose foot was severed by a Great White last Saturday, and I have nothing but admiration for the courage shown by him and his fellow lifeguards in serving their community.

But it is with disappointment that I have read the illogical, knee-jerk reaction from a narrow sector of the public. Their reaction is even more astounding in light of the calm and rationality shown by the Hassiem family, who declared that Achmat would be back in the water at his first opportunity.In the media-induced aftermath of this event, many different public perspectives have emerged: from the primal position of "let's start killing sharks", through the philosophical viewpoint of "man is entering the domain of the shark", to the protectionist perspective of "sharks have an equal right to exist on this planet".

But, whatever your view, I think we need to bear three basic criteria in mind when considering how we respond to this situation. Based on best-available knowledge, we need to be sure that a proposed response:Has a practical chance of reducing the level of risk significantly.
Is proportional to the level of the threat to society.

Will not cause disproportionate damage to the very environment that has attracted such high numbers of water-users to our beautiful city in the first place.In light of these criteria, I would like to consider some of the arguments and inferences put forward in the media over the past days.
"We should start selectively culling sharks": Selectively culling sharks will only work if you are dealing with a relatively localised and resident population. Culling efforts will reduce the density of the local population, and therefore the statistical risk of attack.

But research of tagged Great Whites in False Bay has shown that these animals move frequently between locations along the coast of South Africa and even all the way to Australia. False Bay, therefore, appears to have an open population of Great Whites and selective culling will not be effective in significantly reducing the level of risk to recreational users.

"We should introduce shark nets": A surprisingly little known fact is that shark nets do not function as protective barriers between sharks and humans. They function as very effective fishing nets that kill large numbers of sharks (and many other creatures) until they significantly reduce the local densities of more resident shark species, like Zambezi and Tiger sharks.This strategy in unlikely to be effective in False Bay because of the migratory nature of Great Whites. Furthermore, during our spring and early summer months, our waters are graced with one of nature's true spectacles: Southern Right whales. Shark nets and whales are a bad combination. Entangled whales would suffer a slow death by starvation, and nets would be unserviceable for long periods.

"Sharks are preying on humans": The overwhelming majority of shark attacks around the world are no more than an inquisitive investigation rather than a predatory attack. These animals are supreme predators equipped to take out large prey, and yet most encounters with humans can be described as "bumps" in their terms. Sharks have never - and will never - "prey"on humans on a predictable and repeated basis.

"All bathers are at high risk of shark attack": Different water-use activities carry very different risk profiles. All the recent attacks in False Bay have involved ocean-users practising extreme sports and venturing far distances offshore. These ocean-users are all aware and have accepted this level of risk because of the enjoyment these sports provide. Most importantly, though, these extreme activities carry a very different risk profile compared to bathers wading waste-deep in the inshore area.

It's a bit like striking the fear of imminent mortal danger into the hearts of all day-hikers on Table Mountain, following a rock-climbing accident on an extreme rock face of the mountain.In considering a way forward, I need to commend the rational approach that has prevailed within the City of Cape Town and the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism.

More than eight months ago, these parties approached WWF South Africa to facilitate a process of drawing together the best-available scientific evidence in South Africa (if not the world) to inform the development of a policy to manage Great Whites and the recreational safety in the waters of the Western Cape. This culminated in a successful workshop at the end of May, the proceedings of which will be made public on September 12.

These recommendations have also informed the development of a draft policy by the city that will be adopted and released for public comment at the same time. I am confident that this policy walks the middle road of rationality, practicality and logic and will provide water-users with options that suit the level of risk they wish to expose themselves to.Unfortunately, like too many things in life, no quick-fix, blanket solution exists. Several technological options are being investigated, like electronic barriers and sonar detection devices.

None of these is operational yet and, for now, the novel shark-spotter programme remains a kingpin of the city's strategy.Although still in its infancy, the programme has been highly successful at the beaches where it is operational, and is very likely to be expanded in the near future, with the help of the city, WWF and the Table Mountain Fund.Ultimately, however, our personal safety can only be our own personal responsibility.

The first thing each individual recreational water-user needs to do is to make a conscious decision about what level of risk we wish to expose ourselves to. Once we have made this decision, we need to start behaving accordingly.At the individual level, a number of measures exist through which we can all decrease our risk of an encounter with a Great White. A recent innovation is a personal electronic shark repellent device, called a Shark Shield. These devices, costing about R2 500, are available for surfers, swimmers and divers.

Under test conditions with Great Whites in heightened predatory behaviour, these devices were proven to reduce the risk of attack by more than 80%. In an already low-probability scenario (of encountering a Great White), a further reduction in risk by more than 80% would decrease one's risk to almost zero.Now this is where I have a problem with human logic. An average dedicated surfer owns at least two surfboards (at about R2 500 a pop) and about two wetsuits (at about R1 500 each) and spends at least R6 000 a year on fuel and car maintenance getting to and from surf spots.

By comparison, the cost of a electronic shark repellent does not seem prohibitive. These devices are certainly affordable for the small but vocal group of surfers that are advocating that we go out and hunt sharks - a course of action that has a much higher financial and environmental cost, and one that is totally ineffectual.Is it purely coincidental that in the alternative scenario, someone else will need to carry the financial costs, or is it just that electronic shark repellents don't look cool?

Other measures exist for occasional bathers, who cannot afford such devices, to reduce their risk. The further offshore you venture, the higher your risk. Don't swim alone, at dawn or dusk, when the waters are murky, or in areas where there are signs of high fish activity (birds diving, dolphins and seals are feeding). Bathe at beaches where shark-spotters and lifesavers are on duty.

Bathers should take note of the flags that indicate whether shark-spotters are on duty and if the visibility is adequate.Finally, the most significant action that all recreational water-users can take to reduce their risk is to drive more carefully on the way to the beach. Statistically, you stand a far greater chance of being involved in a car accident on the way to the beach than being attacked by a shark.

I say this not to make light of a serious issue, but merely to make the point that on a daily basis we engage in many activities that carry far higher risks to our personal safety and survival. In these situations we all make daily decisions about the level of risk we wish to expose ourselves to (for example, the manner and speed at which we drive, our exposure to violent crimes, whether we smoke, how much alcohol we consume).

Why should the oceans be any different?The relative success of humans compared to other species on this planet is largely attributable to our ability to logically process best-available information and to make rational and practical decisions based on this, for our own safety and survival.Let's not allow a media hype to cloud our strongest trait. Achmat Hassiem and his family haven't.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Sharks were sighted near Monterey Bay

Great white sharks were spotted several times and in different spots in Monterey Bay over the weekend.

At Manresa State Beach, a great white was seen attacking a harbor seal.

California State Parks officials said there's not threat to humans at this time, but they are keeping an eye out for sharks just in case.

Experts said surfers stand a much greater chance of getting struck by lightning, dying in a plane crash or winning the lottery than being killed by a shark.

Despite the weekend great white sightings off the Santa Cruz County coast, people have not stopped surfing or wading in shallow waters.

Debbie Kosier, of Turlock, said she was on the beach on Sunday when she saw something happening about 150 yards from shore.

"The first thing I thought, 'Oh, there's a red boogie board out there.' All we saw was this thrashing and then we saw a bunch of red blood and I said, 'Oh, my god, that's a shark,'" Kosier said.
"It's a good example of the shark being somewhat selective. In other words, if there's a lot of food around it, they won't bother people," said Sean Van Sommeran of Pelagic Shark Research Foundation.

Even so, state park rangers kept a wary eye on ocean water looking for anything unusual.
Experts said they believe great whites are returning from the open ocean to feed on smaller sharks and harbor seals, and they remind people to never swim alone and stay away from the mouths of rivers, where fish and other sea life congregate.

Great White Shark sighting keep people out of the water

A great white shark was seen attacking a seal at Manresa State Beach over the weekend.
A family on the beach said they witnessed the attack and a state parks employee at Seacliff State Beach confirmed the sighting.

Lifeguards at Rio Del Mar State Beach advised people to stay out of the water after two other beachgoers reported shark sightings.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Can technology make beaches sharks free?

Researchers believe a method to make swimming beaches permanently free of sharks is within reach - but a lack of funding means they cannot create the devices to do so.Technology has already been developed whereby swimmers can attach small pods to their bodies. These devices send out electronic pulses that deter sharks, but are harmless to humans or other sea life.

But while the technology can safeguard individual swimmers, money is needed to develop larger, more powerful pods that can be placed on the ocean floor behind the waves. Such pods placed at regular intervals would then form a powerful electronic curtain preventing sharks from reaching people on the other side of the devices.

'... tourism is our lifeblood and I believe we should find a solution'Geremy Cliff of the Natal Sharks Board said local researchers developed the groundbreaking technology that allow swimmers to strap on pods that emits a pulse or current that deters sharks. "But we do not have the money to take the technology to the next step where large pods would for example be placed to form a barrier at beaches to prevent sharks getting to swimmers.

"The Australians have streamlined the pod and have also developed a device that you can hang off the back of your yacht while at anchor, This device then sends out a pulse that ensures a protected area for a 10m radius around such a yacht where you can swim. "I believe it should be possible to further improve and enhance this technology to form a permanent barrier that will deter sharks from entering a specific area."Following Sunday's shark attack at Sunrise Beach in which lifeguard Achmat Hassiem lost his right foot, there have been urgent calls from surfers and swimmers alike that authorities urgently put measures in place to protect swimmers.

Natal Sharks board experts told the city that shark nets do not offer a viable safety measure at Cape Town beaches. Veteran surfer and founding member of the Association of Surfing Professionals of Africa Paul Botha believes much more can and should be done. He said the numbers of great white sharks had shown a frightening "tenfold" increase in number since the 1990s."Something needs to be done urgently.

It is only matter of time before someone who has lost a family member or has been injured in an attack institutes a claim for millions of rands against the city for negligence. Botha said since great white sharks were declared a protected species in 1993, the numbers had rocketed. He said while there was technology available to ensure the safety of swimmers and surfers at beaches, authorities were dragging their feet."Already the shark attacks have had a huge impact on tourism. I run a surfing backpackers' lodge and surfers from Australia, America and Europe have lost all interest coming to surf here."

Gregg Oelofse, City of Cape Town's environmental police and research co-ordinator, said people used the ocean at their own risk and he did not believe they would be able to institute claims against the city. He said nowhere in the world was swimming 100% safe.Robin de Kock, manager of South African Surfing agreed that something drastic needed to be done to save the surfing and tourism industry."These attacks are bad for the country and authorities now need to take action. Bigger pods that send out currents that deter sharks, should be placed behind the break line.

"Money should be made available towards development of such technology," said De Kock.He said while shark spotters were doing a good job, they could not spot all the sharks. Alison Kock of the City's Shark Working Group said the reality was that the ocean was a wild place and home to the Great White shark. She said more people died crossing the road than in shark attacks. "It would make sense to protect certain areas if we have the technology to do so. People would then know which area were safe while signs at other areas would point out the dangers."She said sharks were naturally inquisitive and incidents where people have been eaten were rare.

Marriette du Toit of Cape Town Tourism said if technology existed to make bathing area safer it should be pursued with vigour."Ironically every time we have a shark attack, we are inundated with calls from people wanting to see Great White sharks. "However, tourism is our lifeblood and I believe we should find a solution where people's safety concerns are addressed while at the same time such measures do not impact negatively on sharks."Oelofse said for the moment technology had not yet not advanced to such a level that an electronic barrier could be placed behind the waves at beaches.

He said shark spotters were doing a wonderful job. He said current technology had not developed to the extent that it offers an alternative. "If it does, it is something we will definitely look at."

Culling sharks and using nets are unacceptable

Proposals to cull sharks or put up nets are irrational and emotive responses to recent attacks along the False Bay coast and will not be viable solutions.This is the view of Lesley Rochat, executive director of the AfriOceans Conservation Alliance and a member of the city's shark working group.

She said recent encounters with the predators had created overnight "shark experts" and a new type of opportunist who received media recognition for coming up with radical, yet unrealistic and ill-informed solutions. "Of course we are concerned about the shark encounters, but they have been occurring worldwide for aeons.

'snake and dog bites are responsible for more deaths in SA'"So too have snake bites and dog bites - which are responsible for more deaths in South Africa annually than shark bites."Rochat said that in searching for a solution, the working group had taken into account the suggestions of people on the street. "Firstly, nets are not a solution - not because they are too expensive or for some other 'pro-shark' hidden agenda, but rather because experts from the Natal Sharks Board say that they will not work in our waters.

"Not only will they not significantly lower the risk of an encounter, but also between June and December they would be catastrophic for the whales that visit our coast and for all other marine life throughout the year."She said electronic repellent devices had also been considered to protect beaches, but the technology was not yet available worldwide.

"Only shark shields for individuals are available and an option to be considered by some water users."Rochat said culling would also be pointless because the remaining sharks would still pose a threat unless they were all killed off, which was obviously not possible."There is also a popular perception that there is a rogue shark which is responsible for all the encounters, yet globally there is no evidence that a shark becomes a rogue or man-eater. If this was the case then people would be eaten regularly and this is simply not happening."

Rochat said the city of Cape Town's Shark Spotting Programme had proved to be a successful early warning system. "It does however have its limitations, such as bad visibility days and human error. And not all beaches are conducive to spotters because they need an elevated vantage point."She added that all the recent encounters had occurred beyond the breakers while there had been none on swimmers in the waves, so it appeared that there might be a safe zone.Recent attacks include the one on lifeguard Achmat Hassiem, who lost his foot off Sunrise Beach on Sunday.

This was followed by an incident where a shark chewed through a surfer's leash off Danger Beach near St James.Alison Kock, a student at the University of Cape Town doing a PhD on Great White sharks in False Bay, said shark attacks were very rare.The number of deaths and injuries attributable to sharks was dwarfed by other causes of injury and death associated with aquatic recreation and work at sea. "There were only 59 attacks worldwide resulting in four deaths last year - amazing considering the literally billions of human hours spent in the sea."

Kock said that shark populations were on the decline worldwide, with many species at less than half of their original size."White sharks, which by definition have relatively tiny populations because of their place as large apex predators, are even more vulnerable."Kock, who spends upwards of 70 days a year on the water studying the Great Whites in False Bay, said researchers still did not know enough about them.Other safety options which have been investigated by the Natal Sharks Board include exclusion nets, fine-meshed nets that create an exclusion zone.

According to Gregg Oelofse, the city of Cape Town's environmental policy and research co-ordinator, exclusion nets had been used in Hong Kong with success but required calm sea conditions. While they might be effective in certain conditions in Cape Town, they would be expensive, would secure small areas, be maintenance intensive and could be adversely affected by the Western Cape's high kelp loads.

Oelofse said research into the use of early warning sonar devices was under way but was currently prohibitively expensive. He added that research had found there was no current evidence to link cage-diving with White shark attacks.

Shark attacks source of alert

In the wake of another reported shark incident, the False Bay coastline between Kalk Bay and Muizenberg was lined with municipal officers and extra shark spotters on Wednesday, urging people not to enter the water.The second report of an encounter came on Tuesday, after the attack on lifeguard Achmat Hassiem, who lost his foot in a shark attack off Sunrise Beach on Sunday.Gregg Oelofse, the City of Cape Town's environmental policy and research co-ordinator, said the latest encounter was reported on the reef off Danger Beach, between Muizenberg and St James.

'I just went numb when I saw the shark and paddled as fast as I could to shore'According to witness reports, surfers said a shark had approached a surfer's board from the rear and chewed through his leash, but left the surfer unharmed.The Cape Argus was contacted by surfers at the scene.

Surfer Byron Moncrieff identified the surfer nudged by the shark as Richard Whitaker.He told the Cape Argus that he was metres away from Whitaker when he heard his screams."I looked up and then I saw the shark. Somehow he managed to get away without being bitten and it only bit his leash.

'Exercise extreme caution'He estimated the shark to be three metres long."I just went numb when I saw the shark and paddled as fast as I could to shore." Oelofse said: "A surfer, Brian Hope, interviewed the alleged victim following the incident and photographed the victim's surf-board leash, which is apparently torn in two."According to Brian, approximately 15 surfers at the surf spot at the time all left the water following this incident."We're struggling to get more details, but at the moment we're taking it at face value."Shortly after the reported incident, a spotter at Muizenberg raised the alarm when he saw a shark cruising towards Muizenberg from St James, where the incident was reported."The timing does correlate," Oelofse.

"He immediately closed Muizenberg, so the shark-spotting programme worked well."After Tuesday's incident, more staff were deployed on the coastline this morning."In addition to the normal shark watchers, we've had extra nature conservation staff down at St James and Kalk Bay reef, as a precautionary measure, since about 7.30 this (Wednesday) morning," Oelofse said."Their instructions are to approach anyone going into the water and caution them that at the moment we would recommend (that) they not to surf or swim in the area."

Oelofse said his team was situating a new shark spotter at St James. "We're identifying a spot and organising a siren, flag and staff," he said.This week's shark activity has prompted debates on how best to protect bathers from shark attacks, with some calling for selective culling.But Oelofse, also a representative of the Shark Working Group, appealed to the public to exercise caution in the False Bay area."

The Shark Working Group are appealing to bathers, surfers, paddlers and boaters along the False Bay Coast to exercise extreme caution along this stretch of the False Bay coastline due to this alleged incident and the two recent incidents involving sharks. The last incident before the drama this week came last year, when a great white shark bit off part of a surfski paddled by Trevor Wright.

Are there enough sharks to deal with the seals over population?

A great white shark has the power to strike fear into the hearts of, well, pretty much everybody, but for some local commercial fishermen the abundant seal population living in Chatham waters poses a greater threat to their livelihood.

"There is a growing concern about the seal population," said Paul Bremser, a Chatham resident who observed a great white shark attack and eat a seal off Lighthouse Beach July 18. Bremser was giving a surfing lesson at the time.

Bremser told the board of selectmen Tuesday that, as a commercial fisherman, he believes the seals are decimating inshore fish populations through feeding and the spread of fish-eating parasitic worms found in their feces.

"Seals eat the fish, the same fish fishermen are trying to catch," said Selectwoman Deborah Connors, who has heard similar concerns about the seals.

Bremser asked selectmen to sign a letter he drafted to elected officials.

"I want Congress to review the Marine Mammals Protection Act and send scientists to Chatham," he said.

Tom Rudolph, program coordinator for Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen's Association, helped draft the letter and said there is merit to Bremser's concerns about an unchecked growing seal population.

Unlike the Endangered Species Act, Rudolph said the Marine Mammals Protection Act does not establish a healthy target number for a seal population to reach.

Seals are federally protected after decades of extensive hunting for their pelts.

Rudolph hopes the letter would be sent to Massachusetts Sens. John Kerry and Edward Kennedy, and U.S. Rep. William Delahunt. The idea is to foster a dialogue about the issue and encourage scientific studies of the impact of the growing seal populations on the local fishery and what is a healthy number.

"We feel there are major data gaps," said Rudolph. "The way to narrow the gap between perception and reality is through education."

A majority of the selectmen agreed and voted 4-1 to send the letter to local representatives.
Selectmen Chairman David Whitcomb did not vote to send the letter, explaining he needed more time to review the issue.

Rudolph said support will also be sought from other boards of selectmen on the Cape and in other coastal communities in Massachusetts for better studies of the growing seal populations.

New surfing gear may deter sharks

The experts say surfers stand a much greater chance of getting struck by lightning, dying in a plane crash or winning the California Lottery than getting killed by a shark.

But still. When you’re floating on water, you know there’s a great white shark somewhere. You just hope Whitey’s not in your neighborhood.

"You just feel vulnerable sitting out there in the water," said Cash McConnell, a body boarder from Grover Beach.

McConnell and his wife, Pam, think they’ve designed a product to help ease the surfer’s deepest, darkest fear.

Sharkcamo — a zebra-like design that can be affixed to surf boards or bodies — features a pattern that discourages sharks from attacking, they say.

"One Saturday afternoon, I was watching the Discovery Channel, and they had a documentary about this concept," Cash said.

In the show, sharks would attack a plain pole with chum on it, but they ignored a chum-covered pole featuring a black-and-white pattern. After seeing the special, Cash turned to his wife and said, "I’ve got an idea here."

At the time, he was trying to break out as a country songwriter. While the couple lived in Nashville, Tenn. — not exactly popular in the surf circuit — they often traveled to the Atlantic Coast and Gulf of Mexico to ride waves.

Their Sharkcamo design can be applied to boards in the form of a decal, or they can be glassed into custom-made boards. Black-and-white-patterned elastane suits, Spandex-like outfits which can be worn like a swimsuit or over a wetsuit, are also available.

Various shark repellents have been offered through the years — including one product that emitted bubbles, another that produces an electrical field, and Fangshooey, a sticker depicting a great white shark’s head.

The bubbles didn’t work, the electrical field is expensive (around $550) and Fangshooey has not been scientifically tested.

"One of our customers called and asked me about (Fangshooey)," Pam said, "and I joked that, yeah, that’s a good idea — unless it’s mating season."

After the McConnells designed their product, an investment company from Australia offered to sponsor testing in exchange for overseas business rights. So a team of experts took Sharkcamo to the shark-infested Seal Island, off South Africa, then dumped boards with and without the pattern into the sea.

"Basically, I wanted them to tell me it didn’t work," Cash said.

The concept of Sharkcamo is simple: The design mimics the patterns seen on fish that aren’t consumed by sharks.

"Colored patterns are very common in nature as a warning to a potential predator that you don’t want to take a bite out of something," said Ralph Collier, who heads the Shark Research Committee in Florida, which has investigated shark behavior since 1962.

The Sharkcamo design resembles sea life that sharks don’t eat, including the lion fish, poisonous sea snake and the pilot fish.

"In all the dissections that have been performed by biologists over the years, in what must be literally millions of sharks, no one has ever reported finding a pilot fish in the stomach of a shark," Collier said. "Yet the pilot fish accompanies oceanic sharks all over the world. They swim right alongside their heads."

Collier, one of the experts who conducted the Sharkcamo testing, is often quoted on the slim chances one stands of getting attacked by a shark.

Yet, as he wrote in his book "Shark Attacks of the 20th Century," there are more than 30 species of sharks along the Pacific Coast.

Of the 11 fatal shark attacks recorded in California since the 1950s, two were off the shores of San Luis Obispo County (in 1957 and 2003). And there have been many more sightings and nonfatal attacks.

With that in mind, surfers might take comfort in knowing there’s a product that will protect them from becoming the next victim. But don’t get too confident just yet; Sharkcamo has yet to be a proven deterrent.

While the sharks at Seal Island avoided the Sharkcamo boards (and approached others), bad weather limited the number of tests researchers could conduct, Collier said. And a malfunction in the underwater camera prevented them from observing more shark behavior.

"Right now, I believe it shows promise based upon the very limited results that we have," Collier said. But, he added, conclusions cannot be drawn from those results, which is why more testing is planned for Guadalupe Island off Baja California next month.

Meanwhile, the McConnells are trying to build their business out of their Grover Beach home, where they have lived the past year.

Though pleased by early test results, the McConnells said they’re prepared to deal with skeptics.
"Some people are like, ‘Oh man, great idea!’ " Cash said. "Other people think you’re a complete lunatic."

Friday, August 18, 2006

Sharks spotted near Spanish beach

On Tuesday afternoon at around 3.30pm lifeguards spotted three sharks cruising 20 to 30 metres off the beaches of La Olla and Cap Negret, near to Altea. Alarm spread as the lifeguards ran along the beach warning bathers to get out of the water. The police were alerted and assisted the lifeguards as hundreds of people sat in awe on the narrow beachfront watching these amazing creatures as they hunted for food.

One of the lifeguards, Joseph Jose Francisco said, "There were only two fish when I first spotted them, then another joined them. They were moving up along the coastline from the direction of Altea and then we lost sight of them." He went on to say "I have been doing this job for more than two years and this is the first such sighting." He added, "We (The lifeguards) all have radios and were able to send a warning to each other and in doing so ensure the bathers were safely out of the water. Each of the sharks were over a metre in length and potentially dangerous."

Drew and Sandra Wierke from Germany were enjoying a fun afternoon with their 16-month-old baby before the incident. Drew said, "We were extermely concerned as we had been swimming with Leeann in the very same area as they were spotted only minutes before." The fear of sharks has been fuelled by a few rare instances of unprovoked attacks, such as the Jersey Shore Shark attack of 1916, and by sensationalised films, such as the Jaws series.

In the 20th century there have been 2 shark attacks in Spanish waters reported: In 1986 a windsurfer was bitten in the leg by what is said to have been a Great White. The man was seriously injured and in the end his leg had to be amputated. The second attack was in 1993 when a swimmer was attacked by a slender dark shark, approx. 2 m long, and type unidentified. He lost his toes!

And in 1985 a Great White washed up in Tossa del Mar, Catalunya. In 2005 there were worldwide, a total of 58 unprovoked recorded attacks of which four were fatal. In comparison, several hundred people die annually from lightning strikes and between 1 to 3 million people die from diseases transmitted via mosquito bites. Contrary to popular belief, only a few sharks are dangerous to humans.

Out of more than 360 species, only four have been involved in a significant amount of fatal unprovoked attacks on humans: the great white, tiger, oceanic whitetip and bull sharks. These sharks, being large powerful predators, may sometimes attack and kill people, but all of the above sharks, have been filmed by divers in open water time and time again, without incident.

Sharks spotters are doing a great job!

With reference to the front page article, "Shark attack sparks outcry" (Cape Argus, August 14 ), I would like to state my support for the city's shark spotting programme.I have been body-boarding regularly at Surfer's Corner at Muizenberg for 18 months. During this time, the shark warning siren has been activated maybe three times. Each time I have been amazed at - and have appreciated - the calm manner in which people left the ocean and waited patiently for the spotters to give the all-clear.I have also taken time to go up to Boyes Drive and chat to the spotters. They explained to me the basis on which they sound the siren - the shark is normally well clear of the last surfer beyond the breakers and therefore does not pose any threat to those in the surf zone.I am confident to swim at Muizenberg and Fish Hoek beaches when the spotters are on duty, but at the same time I also appreciate that I am within the domain of wild animals and therefore must act responsibly. I believe the shark spotting programme has been and continues to be very effective in alerting people to the presence of a shark in the vicinity and in preventing human/shark encounters.In light of the above, I believe that we should not be so quick to criticise the city's programme. We should rather carefully consider the facts and the behaviour of sharks and humans. While shark attacks have and will continue to occur, humans do not form part of the natural diet of sharks - this is evident from the very low number of shark-related deaths worldwide versus the millions of people who swim, surf, paddle and dive in the oceans. According to research, sharks are inquisitive by nature and will use their mouths to find out more about an object in the water. Once they are satisfied the object is not food, they tend to let go and move on.

However, like all predators, Great White sharks are opportunistic and will attack easy targets. We know they are attracted to disturbances on the surface, so a swimmer or someone flailing beyond the breakers, in the path of a shark, is more at risk of an attack than swimmers within the surf zone.To date, not one of the shark incidents around the Peninsula has occurred within the surf zone.

Great white sharks tend to hunt in deeper water, so swimmers, surfers and the like should be encouraged to rema
in in shallow water to avoid encounters with these animals. Anyone venturing beyond the breakers is doing so at their own risk.On the basis of these facts, we should be encouraging people to change their behaviour rather than calling for the selective culling of sharks.

We should pay heed to the recommendations of shark experts and avoid those areas in the ocean in which we are more likely to encounter a shark. This means using the beaches currently monitored by the shark spotters and staying within the surf zone.If anything, we as ocean users should be contributing to the city's programme.We will not easily overcome our fear of sharks and change the perception of sharks as "man-eaters", but we have reached a point in our history where we must conserve them for the future well-being of the oceans.

We need to "rethink the shark" and start accepting these animals for what they are, not "man-eaters" but important ocean predators which require our protection and respect.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Culling Great White sharks, no a solution to diminishing shark attacks

A proposal to take a bite out of the number of Great White Sharks, to minimise the deadly threat posed by the creatures, has been scorned by marine experts in South Africa.

Environmentalists bared their teeth yesterday at the idea of selectively culling Great Whites in the waters of False Bay in the Cape.

Some Capetonians had called for the protection of humans before that of the predator shark and consequently the culling of the animal, following last week’s attack in which a lifesaver lost his right foot.

“The proposed culling of Great Whites is totally nonsensical and based on no knowledge of the species or the problem,” head of the aquatic unit at South Africa’s World Wide Fund for Nature, Deon Nel, told The Citizen yesterday.

He said measures such as killing, catching nets and baited lines had worked in reducing the number of Great White attacks where the sharks were local.

“In False Bay we have migratory Great Whites which move from Seal Island along the coastline and even down to Australia.

“Removing or killing the sharks will not reduce the numbers.”

He also said that the shark attacks in False Bay were on bathers, surfers and spear-fishermen who venture far offshore.

“There has been no single attack on bathers who enter the sea waist-deep,” Nel said.

Cape Town says no to new shark cage diving permits

The city of Cape Town has said no additional cage diving permits will be issued for False Bay.
Cage diving has been labelled as one of the possible causes for recent great white shark attacks.
Twenty-four-year-old Achmat Hassiem lost his foot this weekend, after he was attacked by a great white at Muizenberg's Sunrise beach.

The shark working group's Gregg Oelofse said there is no obvious link between attacks and False Bay's seal population.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Coming face to face with a Great White Shark

In the third of a four part series Mark Graham goes through the trials and tribulations of the West Cumbria MUSC Branch on tour!

Monday 17th July
The 08.55 flight to Cape Town arrived at 11am, where we were met by Edu Sports. The players were boarding the tour bus so after hanging around with them for a while we proceeded to Southern Sun Cullinan Hotel, in Cape Town. It was about a five minute walk away from the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, which is a massive shopping and tourist area.

History says it was the docking point for the British Army before they were slaughtered by the Zulus in the battle of Rorke's drift. These days old harbour buildings make way for a large shopping precincts - the picturesque backdrop of the harbour provides an ideal place for shopping, eating, and bar hopping!

We set out to explore the local after being imprisoned in Durban, and finding the Waterfront and a spot of lunch was enough to see us all split up for the day. One of my hobbies is keeping tropical fish, so under the recommendation of a local I the "Two Oceans Aquarium" on Dock Road, which houses ragged Tooth Sharks, Knysna Seahorses and African Penguins to say the least!

Tuesday 18th JulyAs the game was due to kick off late we decided to venture up the 1085m of Table Mountain. The summit offers a 360 degree view of Cape Town and excellent views of Table Bay, Robben Island whereby Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, Cape Flats and the Cape Peninsula. The Cableway opened on the 4th October 1929.

The opening ceremony, led by the then mayor of Cape Town, drew 200 guests and apparently to date has seen more than 16 million passengers reach the summit. We were quickly aboard, taking about 10 minutes to reach the top of the mountain. The cable cars work on a counter weight system weighing 134 tonnes each; with 1200m of cable weighing 18tonnes to whisk you briskly up the mountain.

But the top does afford some great views including:

Dassie Walk - Spectacular views north, west and south;

Agama Walk- This popular route has been specially chosen to offer spectacular 360 degree views of Cape Town and Cape Peninsula;

Klipspringer Walk- views along the plateau edge to above Platteklip Gorge.Our group took both the Klipspringer and the Agama Walks, and finally ending back at the cable car hours later. We even bumped into a friend of mine, Roger, a man I only ever seem to see in far off destinations of the world thousands of miles away from Old Trafford!The second match of the tour was against Kaizer Chiefs at the Newland Stadium (home to the Stormers of the Super 14 Rugby, Ajax Cape Town of the Premier Soccer League and Western Province Rugby Union).

As we entered the stadium we were dismayed by the news that there was NO alcohol for sale, forcing us to settle for Ribena and a Chunky Kit Kat! I took it upon myself to ask why there would be no drink, and the guy behind the counter who asked to anonymous told me people go "goo goo!" But as I sunk my second Ribena I was approached by one of the caterers who asked if I "still wanted beer." Has Pinocchio got wooden balls?

Of course we wanted alcohol, which came in Coca Cola cups with the lids on. We were instructed to pretend it was juice of some sort. He then served us about 30 cups of Dry Cider instead of beer but we didn't care!Wednesday 19th JulyUndoubtedly the best experience of the trip was the Shark Diving expedition we took at "Shark Alley", near the fishing village of Gansbaai.

The trip was offering the opportunity to dive and meet a Great White Shark, face to face - and on your own terms. It was unmatched by anything I have ever done before. It's an education and you will soon learn that this magnificent creature is in fact, highly misunderstood. One that should be respected, not feared. However, the sheer presence of the magnificent beast called for some "squeaky bum time," as Sir Alex puts it.

We sailed out to sea and anchored near Dyer Island where we were met in the water by nine or more Great White Sharks including a massive 15ft female we would almost touch later. Wiehann Myburgh, our guide, showed us where the wet suits and other equipment were located despite your reporter, Dave and Peter all struggling to get into them!

The skipper, Hansie vd Merwe, had several Tuna fish heads as bait for the Sharks and would throw them two to three metres away from the cage. The idea was for all divers in our wet suits and snorkels to duck down and look straight ahead at the most awesome sight you're ever likely to see - a Great White Shark literally yards away.

Each time this happened up to six people would be in the cage with the sharks around. When feeding actively around the boat, the sharks may occasionally brush their tail against the cage, but NEVER attack the cage. They are very curious though and often come close-up so that an eye-to-eye encounter is a guaranteed.

From the smallest sand shark to the enormous whale shark, they are sleek, muscled, and some are almost as agile as a dolphin. There is no doubt that they are the most evolved predators in the ocean. Row upon row of teeth and capable of sensing the blood of an injured animal from over a kilometre away, it's not surprising that they are the most feared creature beneath the waves. And of them all, the Great White is the most awesome.

Shark attack victim describe his nightmare

Achmat Hassiem, the Cape Town lifeguard whose foot was bitten off by a shark, deliberately attracted the shark towards him to save his younger brother, Taariq.Speaking from his hospital bed on Monday, Hassiem, 24, said while he and Taariq, 17, were carrying out a lifeguard training exercise in the water off Sunrise Beach, Muizenberg, on Sunday, he saw the fin of the shark slicing through the water towards his brother."It was going for my brother.

I shouted: 'Taariq! Shark!' and then started splashing about in the water so that I would attract the shark to me. "The shark turned around and came towards me. It grabbed my ankle and shook me, then pulled me under water. I thought the game was over.

'I thought the game was over'"But as I went down, I told myself, 'No, you're not going to die now', and I started kicking it."It had my right leg and I kicked at its head with my left leg," Hassiem said."I don't know how many times I kicked it, maybe four times. But I needed to get breath, I could feel I had already taken in seawater. And then it let go.

"As I came up I saw my brother's hand in the water and grabbed it."I looked back and saw the shark coming towards me for a second time, but the guys in the boat pulled me in before he got to me. They saved my life."

'I don't know how to describe what it was like'Hassiem was rushed to shore and airlifted to Constantiaberg Medi-Clinic where he had emergency surgery to his leg. He is out of intensive care but will have further surgery on Tuesday."I don't know how to describe what it was like. "You don't feel pain. It had my leg in its mouth but I did not feel pain. It was just, I don't know, just this brute power, this massive brute force against me, against nothing."

Hassiem is putting on a brave face and already talks about going back to being a lifeguard, but he knows it will be hard to train again, having to learn to swim without his foot."I want to go back. I'm being as brave as I can. But I struggle to sleep. Every time I close my eyes I see it all again, every detail."Hassiem and his brother were training with three others from False Bay Lifesaving, Nic Pemberton, who was also in the water, and Kishan Kalan and Kim Calderwood in the lifesaving vessel.

He has not had trauma counselling and found himself comforting others on Monday."I spoke to my girlfriend who is on holiday in America and she just wanted to come home. I told her not to worry and said that by the time she comes back I will be running around again."Calderwood came to see him on Monday, upset and blaming herself."I told her she mustn't, because she did a great job, and that I owe my life to her and the crew on the boat."

As with every shark attack around the peninsula, this incident has caused panic and calls from some quarters for Great White sharks to be killed in False Bay.Asked what he thought about calls for shark killing, Hassiem said: "I don't know about that. I don't know how sharks think. I just know they're one powerful massive piece of armour. But I know that when you go into the sea, you are in another creature's territory, the shark's home ground.

He's doing what he does naturally."Surfer Paul Botha believes in "selective" killing of sharks bigger than five metres, about six a year, which could be offered to hunters for $50 000 each. He believes this would raise money for research and protection of humans, and would remove the sharks that attack, and reduce the "overpopulation" of Great Whites. But shark researcher Alison Koch says Botha has no basis for such claims. "Sharks do not see humans as prey. If they were turning to people for food, we would be seeing attacks every day," Koch said.

There was no merit in "selective" killing of big sharks. White Sharks were in decline worldwide, and in her six years researching in False Bay, she has seen only three sharks over five metres. "Female White Sharks under 5m and males under 4m to 4.5m are not yet sexually mature. If you kill those over 5m, you're taking out the sexually mature animals and the population will come crashing down."

Shark debate is on following attack on lifeguard

The city’s fledgling shark-spotting programme is under fire after an attack on 24-year-old lifesaver Achmat Hassiem, with a veteran surfing administrator calling for the selective culling of Great Whites.It has been revealed that the shark-spotting programme does not extend to Sunrise Beach, where Sunday’s attack took place.The attack on Hassiem, who lost a foot in the incident, occurred in an area where spotters can see sharks only in ideal conditions.

'Environmental zealots'The attack has started a debate on how best to protect bathers.Former South African surfing events administrator Paul Botha says selective culling is the solution to the shark problems, while others have slammed his suggestion.

Botha, who has surfed in False Bay for 40 years, has advocated selective culling and called for the protection of “humans first and sharks secondly”. “The environmental zealots have caused a major problem in False Bay where they have allowed the fish stock to be fished out of the sea. “That has created an imbalance, because there is no food for the overpopulation of sharks. The Great Whites are supposed to feed on fish and now they want to feed on humans,” said Botha. He said only the Great Whites needed culling.

'Magnificent animal'“If sharks are very smart, as environmental zealots argue, they will go away if we start culling them,” he said.However, Greg Oelofse of the City’s environment department, who is a representative with the Shark Working Group, said the council would continue the shark-spotting programme, and planned to expand it.Neither shark nets nor electronic devices would be effective in Cape waters, he said.

However, the surfing community is becoming increasingly agitated and debate is raging.Surfer and diver John Bromley of Kommetjie accused authorities of issuing “platitudes” about understanding sharks.“My 14-year-old son was in the water not a kilometre from where the attack took place yesterday and of course I am concerned for his safety,” he said.“He has been in the water surfing during at least five Great White encounters in the last three years, at Long Beach, Jeffreys Bay, Witsands and Muizenberg.

This is unacceptable. In over 40 years of surfing I never saw one while in the water.”He said the government’s primary responsibility was the protection of citizens and the authorities were failing in this area. Bromley said selective culling should not be about revenge, but about removing danger from popular beaches.“The Great White is a magnificent animal and to protect it is justified,” he said.“But until such time as proper alternative safety measures can be developed, selective culling should be considered,” he said.

Bromley, who earlier wrote his views on the surfing website www.wavescape.co.za, said monitoring attempts had so far been inadequate.“Until there is adequate monitoring with warning systems or electronic barriers or shark nets, limited culling of sharks near popular swimming and surfing beaches, which are not their primary habitat, is the only rational answer,” he said.Oelofse said today that the kind of measures taken by the Natal Sharks Board would not prove efficient in Cape waters, due to conditions off the Peninsula’s beaches.

“Due to sea conditions, nets won’t work. The electronic shark shield devices developed by the Natal Sharks Board only work when they are used by individual swimmers. “They have not been developed for use on buoys, as they only have an effective range of about two metres, depending on water quality. “The Natal Sharks Board has advised us that they will not work when placed on buoys.”The shark-spotting programme, which employed monitors on vantage points such as the mountain above Muizenberg and Fish Hoek, had been identified as one of the most effective warning methods, Oelofse said.

However, he conceded the spotting programme was effective only where spotters could be deployed on high vantage points.“We had to decide which beaches were strategically important. The numbers of bathers and watersport enthusiasts and the available high vantage points would have to be considered. “At many beaches, there just aren’t high vantage points, such as along the West Coast.“Muizenberg’s Corner was closed for only about 40 minutes after the attack as a precautionary measure,” Oelofse said.

“The spotters worked according to their protocols and did not close the Corner straight away, because there was no shark near the Corner,” he said.Spotter Patrick Davids, who monitors the water from the beach, said he was happy with the response of bathers once the decision had been made to close the beach. “People listened very well, and came out quickly,” he said.Oelofse said the group wanted to employ more spotters. “Bathers have to realise they increase their risk of being attacked the further they go out or away from areas covered by spotters.”

Lifeguard looses foot during shark attack in False Bay

A 24-year-old lifeguard lost a foot when he was bitten by a shark in False Bay in a rare incident in shark-inhabited waters early on Sunday.Achmat Hassiem was in the water with fellow surf lifeguards from Lifesaving SA practising surf rescues at the time, National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) spokesperson Craig Lambinon said.He added that Hassiem was treated on the scene by medics from the lifeguard club and flown to hospital by helicopter."Lifeguard medics had controlled the bleeding, elevated the patient's leg and had the patient in a stable condition," Lambinon said.

Shark attacks remain uncommon in False BayLocal lifeguard chairman Graham Lewis said they were conducting a routine surf rescue exercise when the incident occurred. Constantiaberg Medi-Clinic nursing manager Frankie Redfern confirmed Hassiem had lost his foot. "He's stable at the moment," she added.

Hassiem's father, Moegsien, said Achmat's brother, Taariq, 17, was in the water with him when the shark attacked and that he had helped to save his sibling. He was now undergoing counselling."He's the one who saw everything and was in the water with him," his father said.The incident took place about 11am off Sunrise Beach at Muizenberg.

Shark attacks remain uncommon in False Bay, even though it is home to a large population of Great White sharks, a protected species in South Africa, attracted to a resident population of seals.In July the NSRI also cautioned swimmers at nearby Fish Hoek after a shark chewed a lifeguard's surf-ski.A government shark board in May reported six shark attacks, three of them fatal, around the Cape Peninsula between 2003 and 2005.

Two of the attacks occurred in open sea, while the other four were in False Bay."There are obviously many variables, although the one that swamps all others is the increase in recreational bathers in the water," said Deon Nel, aquatic unit manager at the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) South Africa about the attacks."It has increased exponentially, specifically people who venture further offshore. Surfing, surf-ski paddlers, and spear fishing are popular sports.

Improvements in wetsuits also mean more people are in the water," Nel said.The city of Cape Town was reported to be drafting a policy to guide the safety aspects of people and sharks in False Bay.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Jungle show tries to destroy rumors about Great White sharks

Fairgoers who venture into the Jungle area of the Illinois State Fair, in the former Happy Hollow, may have to fight crowds as thick as any real jungle.

At noon Saturday, the lion and tigers performed for a packed house, as did the sharks at a 4 p.m. show. Wild animals seem to be the hit at this year's fair.

"Last year, the area was good," said Amy Bliefnick, Illinois State Fair manager. "This year, we think we've made it even better with five shows of lions, bears, dogs, sharks and an alligator. We've been pleased there are crowds at every show."

Vincent Von Duke and his wife, Georgina, want their lion and tiger show to be educational as well as entertaining.

They've brought - and are living with - a Bengal tiger, African lion, a white tiger and a Siberian tiger. The animals jump through a burning hoop, crawl under a fence and play with each other while the Von Dukes share tiger and lion information with fair patrons.

For example, an adult tiger or lion will eat 20 to 30 pounds of beef or chicken.

"The beef is special, but the chicken comes from Wal-Mart," Vincent said. "They like the leg quarters."

"We raised all of these from babies," he added. "I'm a sixth generation animal trainer. My dad taught me. I've been doing this since I was 8 years old. And yes, I still have all my fingers and toes."
He trains them using chunks of red meat that he offers to the animals from a long stick.
"The first word they learn is 'no' and they end up knowing about 25 words," Georgina said.
The difficult part of the job is maintaining the animals' health and well being.

"It's 24 hours a day, seven days a week," Vincent said. "We bring them in the semi - like a big horse trailer, and we stay on one end of it. It's like taking care of babies who don't grow up. To keep Zazu, the male lion, looking good, he gets shampooed and cream rinsed every day."
The couple travels 20 to 30 weeks a year, then keeps the animals at home in Sarasota, Fla. the remainder of the time.

"All the animals are captive-bred," Vincent said. "They're used to hot weather. In Africa, it's 145 degrees in the shade. We have a special permit for them and are federally licensed."

Each of his animals has a name and personality.

"They're very, very smart, very intelligent," he said. "They're very majestic.

Besides the four in the show, he also is training two 26-month old tigers.

"It's a long process to train them, taking at least two years."

The current show includes a 4-year old African lion named Chi Chi; a big male lion named Zazu, age 12 and weighing 650 pounds; Kaya, a Bengal tiger weighing 700 pounds, and a Siberian tiger named Sheik, just older than 3 years old.

"The younger ones like to play; the older ones like to sleep 23 and a half hours," Vincent said. "In the wild, they are on the move, looking for food. Here, that food comes in a stainless steel dish with eggs, milk and steak, and they get lazy. Everything they eat is protein."

The Bengal tiger, Kaya, white with black stripes, is on the endangered species list.

"Her skin and body parts sell for $60,000 to $70,000," Georgina said. "America is the largest breeder of white tigers, and they're shipped all over the world. There are 400 in the U.S. today, and every one is microchipped."

Lions take twice as long to train as tigers.

"Tigers are very independent; lions are much more loveable," Georgina said.

Elsewhere in the Jungle area, a barefoot Colby Cheney waits for his next shark show to start.

Cheney, 34, of Indiana, dives into a tank with two great white sharks - Loretta, 61/2 feet, and Little Larry, 21/2 feet in length. He tries to dispel shark rumors and make the show entertaining.

"I dive all over the world with sharks," said Cheney, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran of Desert Storm. "Sharks aren't dangerous at all. Nine out of 10 times when someone gets hurt, it's because they're screwing with the sharks."

Of the 400 shark species, only 25 have attacked humans.

Most are quite gentle, he said.

Great white sharks have 300 teeth in eight rows so they can eat crustacea, crabs and lobster.
"You can't train a shark," he said. "But you can condition them."

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Debate continues concerning how to protect both the Great White shark and swimmers

Cape Town - Seemingly incongruous recommendations to conserve the Great White shark in the Cape's False Bay basin while offering protection to bathers were at an advanced stage, shark experts said on Wednesday.

"The report tries to walk the middle road, it is a voice of reason, I think," said Dr Deon Nel, aquatic unit manager at the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) South Africa.

Nel was talking about an initiative to try to find ways of reconciling the safety of recreational bathers and at the same time conserve the maligned Great White in an area world-famous for its presence.

He said a specialist workshop was convened in May between a group of shark experts, representing various institutions and government departments.

At this meeting a number of recommendations on Great White shark conservation, management and mitigation, recreational safety, emergency response and communication and awareness were agreed upon.

Nel said a salient recommendation tried to overcome the nettle of authority and jurisdiction, with the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, South African National Parks and the City of Cape Town all having a vested interest in False Bay and its denizens, both gilled and two-legged.
"A key recommendation is that the existing Great White Shark working group, which has representation from all tiers of government, be constituted on a more formal basis," said Nel.
A protected species

Another important recommendation was that "non-invasive shark mitigation measures", such as the shark spotting programme, were considered to be more appropriate than capture devices, such as nets found along Durban.

Great White sharks are listed as a protected species in South Africa. The only time they can be captured is when a special permit is issued to collect a specimen for scientific purposes.

According to Nel, during the 1980s shark numbers dived as trophy-gatherers eager to show-off the shark's impressive tooth-rimmed jaws, took to the water in a frenzy.

Nel said there was no accurate data on Great White numbers in False Bay - the site of a number of fatal human predations and maimings over the years by arguably the oceans' apex predator.
Less than a week ago, Fish Hoek lifesaver Lyle Maasdorp, 19, survived unscathed a close encounter with a presumed Great White when it attacked his surf-ski and bit a sizeable chunk out of it.

Data from the Natal Sharks Board shows that there have been six shark attacks, three of them fatal, around the Cape Peninsula during 2003, 2004 and 2005.

Two of the six attacks occurred at Noordhoek beach on the Atlantic ocean side, with the remaining four in the False Bay area.

Solid proposals

And with Great White numbers stabilising and possibly even increasing, Nel cautioned against the erroneous extrapolation, often in the thrashing aftermath of an attack, that more sharks meant more attacks.

"There are obviously many variables, although the one that swamps all others is the increase in recreational bathers in the water. It has increased exponentially, specifically people who venture further off-shore. Surfing, surf-ski paddlers, and spear fishing are popular sports. Improvements in wetsuits also mean more people are in the water," said Nel.

He said the City of Cape Town was currently drafting a policy document, informed by May's recommendations and substantiated by 15 scientific papers, which would guide the safety aspects of people and sharks in False Bay.

"The outcomes of the May meeting has informed the development of the strategy that we will be putting forward to the City of Cape Town for adoption later this year, possibly September," confirmed city environmentalist Gregg Oelofse.

Oelofse said the findings and recommendations would be made available to the public for their information and comment.

Herman Oosthuizen, of the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, said the recommendations were being formalised so that "solid" proposals were put forward.

"Then they go to top management and Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk, but it's too early to say if they will endorse them because they haven't seen them yet," said Oosthuizen.

Swimming with sharks, an exciting experience!

There's a hierarchy in the world of extreme vacations.

Sky-divers start at 10,000 feet in the air, plummeting from a plane with a parachute. A little closer to earth, long on courage and short on sense, BASE-jumpers hurl themselves from cliffs to sate their adrenaline desire.

These are mere pastimes. The real action begins below sea level: swimming with sharks.

For most people, the word "shark" prompts a knee-jerk fear fed by blockbuster films and a general feeling of insecurity in the ocean depths.

But many others get baited by the thrill of swimming among these underwater predators, away from artificial aquariums and the safety of the movie screen.

"You get a distinct feeling of where you are in the universe," chuckles Patric Douglas, CEO of SharkDiver.com, a shark-diving adventure company. "You realize you're not top of the food chain."
Traditionally, those brave enough to enter the chum-filled water cocooned themselves in reinforced cages, or stood aboard the ship and ogled as ravenous sharks were fed from the deck.

But for some that's just not a strong enough buzz. Searching for new extremes, SharkLady Adventures, a company in South Africa, developed a Plexiglas tube to give the diver the real sensation of swimming with sharks.

"[The diver sees] the great white in its natural environment with crystal clear clarity vision," says Kim "Shark Lady" Maclean, head of the company. "[It is] a one-on-one encounter with the magnificent great white."

Still, it seems that for some, the Plexiglass offered too much protection.

The solution? Shark riding.

Ocean explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau and shark tour guide Andre Hartmann pioneered this new interactive experience off the coast of South Africa.

As portrayed in Cousteau's film, "Sharks at Risk," the intention of the expedition was to disprove the popular myth that sharks are bloodthirsty killers.

The footage depicts the two divers cautiously approaching a great white shark. Carefully positioning themselves near the animal, they take turns grabbing the shark's dorsal fin to be whisked away before safely letting go.

Shark Riding: Help or Hindrance?

But while many shark-diving companies, including Cousteau's, say they want to protect the animals. Scientists and industry members warn of the impact on sharks and their habitat.

"The animals are going to be affected, affected in the sense that their behavior is going to be changed," says Robert Hueter, director of Mote's Center for Shark Research in Sarasota, Fla.
Hueter also warns of the potential danger shark diving poses to the health of the animals. "One thing it can do, it can bring the sharks together in densities that are not normal and it does provide the potential for them to spread pathogens and infections."

But Hueter insists he is not opposed to shark diving per se, "[as long as] they're well controlled and concerned for the animals … it should help fuel conservation."

David Campbell, director and founder of MarineBio.org, argues the real dangers to sharks lie elsewhere, that fishing does more damage than by the shark-diving industry.

Others fear the growth and exploration of free diving with sharks.

"We're there at their discretion and should stay in the cages," warns Douglas. "[Shark diving] is OK as long as there's a barrier between you and the animal.

"If you're with a top sea predator, be a passive observer. You're a guest in their home. You can't look at it like a biological ATM."

Looks like those hunting an adrenaline nirvana will have to stay in their cages or look elsewhere.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

How to protect both bathers and Great White shark?

SEEMINGLY incongruous recommendations to conserve the Great White shark in the Cape‘s False Bay basin while offering protection to bathers are at an advanced stage, shark experts say.
“The report tries to walk the middle road, it is a voice of reason, I think,” Dr Deon Nel, aquatic unit manager at the World Wide Fund for Nature SA, said yesterday.

Nel was talking about an initiative to try to find ways of reconciling the safety of recreational bathers and at the same time conserve the maligned Great White in an area world famous for its presence.
He said a specialist workshop was convened in May between a group of shark experts and government departments.

At this meeting a number of recommendations on Great White shark conservation, management and mitigation, recreational safety, emergency response and communication and awareness were agreed upon.

Nel said a salient recommendation tried to overcome the nettle of authority and jurisdiction, with the department of environmental affairs and tourism, SA National Parks and the City of Cape Town all having a vested interest in False Bay and its denizens, both gilled and two-legged.

“A key recommendation is that the existing Great White shark working group, which has representation from all tiers of government, be constituted on a more formal basis,” said Nel.

Another key recommendation was that “non-invasive shark mitigation measures”, such as the shark spotting programme, were considered to be more appropriate than capture devices, such as nets.

Great White sharks are listed as a protected species in South Africa. The only time they can be captured is when a special permit is issued to collect a specimen for scientific purposes.

According to Nel, during the 1980s shark numbers dived as trophy-gatherers eager to show off the shark‘s impressive tooth-rimmed jaws, took to the water in a frenzy.

Nel said there was no accurate data on Great White numbers in False Bay – the site of a number of fatal human predations and maimings over the years by the Great White shark.

Less than a week ago, Fish Hoek lifesaver Lyle Maasdorp, 19, survived a close encounter with a presumed Great White when it attacked his surf-ski and bit a big chunk out of it.

The Natal Sharks Board says there have been six shark attacks, three of them fatal, around the Cape Peninsula during 2003, 2004 and 2005.

Two of the six attacks occurred at Noordhoek beach on the Atlantic Ocean side, with the remaining four in the False Bay area.

And with Great White numbers stabilising and possibly even increasing, Nel cautioned against the erroneous extrapolation, often in the thrashing aftermath of an attack, that more sharks meant more attacks.

“There are obviously many variables, although the one that swamps all others is the increase in recreational bathers in the water. It has increased exponentially, specifically people who venture further off-shore. Surfing, surf-ski paddlers, and spear fishing are popular sports. Improvements in wetsuits also mean more people are in the water,” said Nel.

He said the City of Cape Town was drafting a policy document, informed by May‘s recommendations and substantiated by 15 scientific papers, which would guide the safety aspects of people and sharks in False Bay.

City environmentalist Gregg Oelofse said the findings and recommendations would be made available to the public for their information and comment.

Herman Oosthuizen, of the department of environmental affairs and tourism, said the recommendations were being formalised so that “solid” proposals were put forward.

“Then they go to top management and Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk, but it‘s too early to say if they will endorse them because they haven‘t seen them yet,” said Oosthuizen.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Great White shark vs Orca...and the winner is...

Two weeks ago, a Bolinas fisherman spotted a great white shark near Duxbury Reef off the shores of Stinson Beach. It leapt out of the water and plunged back down. Later that afternoon, he saw another. And still later, another.“They come up from the deep with a lot of speed and go flying through the air, and then down with a giant splash,” said Jeremy Dierks.

The sightings were less than a half mile from where a line of surfers perpetually bob up and down, legs dangling into the dark water, awaiting the next wave.The sightings were also not far from where, four years ago, a great white flung itself out of the water and bit into the leg of a local surfer. The shark carried the surfer through the air in a wide arc and back beneath the surface before releasing him.

The surfer survived with an 8-inch tear into his flesh that required 100 stitches. Then, two years ago, a shark bit into the leg of another surfer off of Limontour Beach. The surfer punched the shark in the face, and it let him go.Also that year, near Bodega, a great white grabbed a surfer’s leg with its teeth. The surfer jumped onto the shark’s back, wrapped her arms around it and squeezed. The shark let her go.BloodbathLast year, another fisherman saw a 4-foot wall of whitewater coming toward him.

A shark emerged, and “all of the sudden it was like a submarine dumped a barrel of blood into the water and the whole area of whitewater went red,” said Jim Danse.“It was the power of it that was so shocking,” he said. The carnage, however, was the shark’s preferred prey: a harbor seal. “It would come up and take 50-pound chunks of blubber out at a time,” he said. “It makes you feel like a speck.”While attacks on humans perpetually make headlines, great whites are never in search of human flesh here in the “red triangle.”

Great white attacks on humans are almost always a case of mistaken identity, according to Peter Klimley, a UC Davis marine biologist, who says the sharks are looking for plump seals and don’t want to waste their time eating skinny, bony people.Sharks, despite their reputation as brutal killers, have only caused the death of 7 people off the California coast from 1926 to 2004 and have attacked 89 times.“You have a better chance of dying from a bee-sting, or of getting killed in an auto wreck.

More people die by attacks from wild boars,” said James Moskito, of Great White Shark expeditions, who takes people out in cages to the Farallones to see the sharks.“Usually just by looking at the shark, nine out of 10 times it will turn away,” he said. “For every human being killed by a shark, there are 10 million sharks killed by humans,” wrote Peter Benchley, the author of Jaws, in a book about great whites.

Fists upSharks are not simple animals. The have personalities and engage in rituals. Once a shark has taken a bite out of a seal, the shark will let it float to the surface. One bite of seal is enough to keep a shark going for a month and a half, Klimley said, so other sharks gather around and compete for the next bite.To decide who is next, the sharks don’t physically attack each other, but they engage in a ritual display of aggression, by lifting their tails and hurling water at each other. Great white sharks, feared killers of the deep, solve their problems by splashing.Orcas kick Great White assWhile most think of the great white as the toughest animal cruising the high seas, on rare occasions they are put in their place.

In 1997, several researchers were waiting off of the Farallones, watching a pod of orcas, when one spotted a great white in the distance. “All of the sudden one of the orcas took off,” said Mick Meningoz. “Then there was a flash, and there was the orca, holding the shark in its mouth like a toy,” he said. The orca swam to the side of the boat, held the shark up like a trophy and then let it drop into the water.“It dropped it, and went down and got it, then dropped it again, and went down and got it. That went on for about 20 minutes. The orcas were just playing with it,” Meningoz said.The orcas attacked on October 4.

After that day, there wasn’t another shark sighted at the Farallones for the rest of the season.“The orcas put the fear of God into the sharks, and they left,” said Meningoz.EnigmasDespite humankind’s obsession with the shark, precious little is known of their biology. “We don’t know where they go. We hardly know anything about what happens from the time they’re born to when they begin breeding,” said Peter Pyle, a shark biologist. And still, no one knows how long they live.That sharky feelingWhile the number of great whites out at the Farallones are stable, at Stinson Beach they may be on the increase.

“I see more sharks every year,” said Josh Churchman, a local fisherman and surfer, who worried about the “inevitability index” of encountering a surf-shark encounter.Still, he’s been lucky so far. “I’ve left the water many times, if I get the wrong vibe,” he said. “I do think there’s something to that feeling.”