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Monday, February 18 , 2019, 8:37 am | Fair 48º


Captain’s Log: Landlord of the Sea Collects Rent

Great white sharks patrol our waters and feed off the growing pinniped population

The landlord of the sea doesn’t ask for rent. He takes it. He has the size, strength and teeth to back up his claim to property. “Landlord” is one of our nicknames for the great white shark, a number of which patrol our waters because of a copious food supply and good water conditions.

Capt. David Bacon
Capt. David Bacon (Ramona Lisa McFadyen photo)

His rent is a portion of the growing population of pinnipeds. As their numbers increase, other populations decline because of the healthy appetites of furry seals and sea lions. The landlord is one of the few local predators that help balance things out against the exploding pinniped populations.

After seeing so many thousands of young pinnipeds around the Channel Islands and along the coast this year, I’m thinking we need more landlords, because we need more balance to prevent starvation and crashes in the forage-food population.

People are curious about sharks — especially very large sharks with big sharp teeth. My charter passengers are always asking me if we have great whites here, listening with interest when I tell them shark stories and that the landlord patrols these waters regularly. Some ask if we can fish for them, but I tell them no, that great white sharks are protected. When asked what that means, I reply, “That a shark can eat you, but you can’t eat the shark.”

Many of our hardworking urchin divers have worked underwater around the Channel Islands for decades and have never seen the landlord. Most recognize that should they come across one, they won’t have to worry because they probably won’t see it coming. The landlord attacks from below, as a rule, and is a master of stealth.

I don’t mean to make light of shark attacks. Divers take this seriously and so do I, having lost two friends over the years to shark attacks. But usually, we are not on their favored menu.

The great hunters have even been known to snack on sea lions from our buoys just outside the Santa Barbara Harbor. That’s pretty close to home! They are much more common at the islands. I’ve seen the landlord a few times, and I’ve seen its calling card — blood in the water (lots of blood) from a recent kill.

I’ve seen the sharks when they have nosed around the boat because of the smell of fish blood in the water from our charter fishing. The funniest time was when one stuck his snout up to the outflow from my bait tank. I’m sure the critter was enjoying the smell of the bait in much the same way I take a deep whiff when I walk into a candy store. I’m just glad the landlord didn’t decide to chew his way into the bait tank to collect rent!

— 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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