The landlords of the sea have been letting their presence be noticed a bit more often of late. “The landlord” is what we call the great white shark in our waters.
Most folks heard or read about the dead whale in the Santa Barbara Channel last week, with white sharks feeding actively. There were as many as three sharks (and perhaps more) feeding on that carcass.
It was a wild sight to behold as each shark, according to a primordial pecking order, took turns ratcheting its jaws open, clamping down on the carcass and savagely shaking its head to put those very large serrated teeth to work sawing off a huge hunk of whale dinner to swallow whole. Sharks aren’t much on table manners, yet they do have their pecking protocol.
I do not believe we know the cause of the whale death for certain. When a whale dies in the Santa Barbara Channel, many assume it was from a ship strike. In this case, I don’t believe we know that for sure, and of course there are other potential causes for death of a cetacean.
Considering that sharks were vigorously reducing that whale to bite-size chunks, I doubt that we will have enough remaining to study sufficiently and determine with certainty the cause of death.
Those were not the only sharks sighted recently. Another menacing-looking 12-footer patrolled the Gaviota coast in the vicinity of an ongoing squid spawn. I doubt the shark was interested in the squid spawn, other than as an attractant for its preferred meals — sea lions and large fish.
Sea lions are very much interested in squid spawns and they concentrate around the squid, making themselves reasonably easy prey for a big shark. Big fish tend to do the same. Boaters and kayakers have been working that area for months now, catching 30- to 60-pound white seabass as well as halibut to over 50 pounds.
Boaters don’t need to worry too much about sharks swimming about, but kayakers are another story. The fishing has been so good at times that a kayaker may take a couple of big white seabass plus a halibut. Typically, after gaffing the fish, they are secured to the kayak to hang down into the water.
With the landlord patrolling the area, those wise kayakers want nothing to do with continuing to fish from their low-slung kayaks with a large bleeding fish hanging off the side. So once they catch their first fish, they are paddling like crazy for the beach to put their fish in a cooler of ice and then maybe head back out again on their kayak.
Yup, I think that’s exactly what I would do, and I’d paddle so fast that a shark would have to break a serious sweat to catch up to me!
— 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. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.