Beach reopens despite presence of sharks
Nearly a month after Marina State Beach was reopened to surfers following a shark attack, beach-goers and researchers are still being warned that they enter the waters of Monterey Bay at their own risk.
Experts say they are not certain if there are any more sharks in the water now than in previous years. And researchers who dive in the bay to conduct their studies say they are undaunted after surfer Todd Endris was injured by a great white shark in August off the Marina beach.
At Stanford's Hopkins Marine Center in Pacific Grove, director George Somero said that crossing the street in front of their station poses a greater danger than the sharks. Hopkins' diving operations are unaffected, at least for now, because they have no research divers in the water at this time of year, he said.
Still, Hopkins' diving safety officer did notify each diver on their list after the incident.
"Shark activity is treated like the weather," said Steve Clabuesch, the acting diving safety officer at the University of California-Santa Cruz. He said divers from the university marine laboratory are warned of the potential dangers and avoid sampling sites with high numbers of shark sightings, just as they would steer clear of thunderstorms.
At the Monterey Bay Aquarium, safety protocols have also been reinforced in the last month. Now divers tend to spend less time doing surface swims and communicate better with one another. In addition, the aquarium suspended its outside diving
operations for a week after the incident.
"The shark attack was part of a number of other things that kind of led us to the decision to restrict diving," said Gil Falcone, the aquarium's senior dive officer.
In the days prior to the shark attack in Marina, spear fishermen drove off a shark in the waters near Pacific Grove by rapping it on the nose.
Despite the recent frequency of such sightings, Falcone doesn't know if there are more sharks in the water than in previous years.
Sean Van Sommeran, executive director of the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation, said he has not observed a notable increase in shark activity since he began his research more than 15 years ago. He called the recent awareness of sharks "an echo effect" of the August attack.
Van Sommeran said that more sharks are seen and reported when beaches are crowded.
The increase in shark sightings has not scared away beach-goers, according to state Parks Department spokesman Randy Bevis.
In fact, the notoriety of the shark attack has possibly increased the numbers of visitors to Marina State Beach, he said.