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Captain’s Log: Shark Watch Along California Coast

We are standing on the side, watching the food chain rattle loudly

Have you been following the shark buzz? There are reports of a decapitated sea lion and stories of other sea lions with large bites missing. We are on notice that at least one large white shark is on the prowl in our waters, and people are warned to stay out of the water.

Here are some thoughts while sitting near the shore and watching seaward ...

This puts me in mind of a few years back when people saw a white shark pull a sea lion off a navigation buoy just outside of the Santa Barbara Harbor. It is interesting to listen to people’s reactions to these events. Part of the reaction is just a natural fear that something higher in the food chain is within striking distance. But an even more fascinating part of the reaction is wrestling with feelings about both the shark and the sea lions.

Speaking just for myself, my feelings tend to side with the predator. It is certainly the dominate force in this one brief and bloody battle, but that prime predator is very much the statistical underdog because there are so few of them and so many sea lions. I feel we need the prime predators to maintain balance in the food chain.

Great white sharks are protected in California waters and so are sea lions. We are just standing on the side watching the food chain rattle loudly. We’ve already placed protections on them, but those protections are only from us.

Know what we call the great white shark? Our nickname for the toothy stealth hunter is “The Landlord.” It fits. Is it an apex predator? Well, maybe until an orca or other big-toothed whale comes along.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a shark repellant that really, truly works? It doesn’t exist. But here is an idea. Up in the Farallon Island waters, great white sharks are known to congregate, especially in the autumn months. Whenever orcas show up, though, great whites disappear en masse. The curious part is that they rapidly disappear, even from the other side of the island.

It is like the sharks have communications capability and protocol. It is believed that when they are fearful they emit a chemical response that broadcasts in all directions through the water very quickly.

If we can derive that chemical response, without risk or injury to a shark, we could have an effective repellant right from the shark itself. I like that!

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help.

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