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Wednesday, March 20 , 2019, 3:37 am | Overcast 54º


Captain’s Log: Food for Thought About Shark Bites

Sharks attack humans expecting to taste a sea lion or seal; wearing bright colors and patterns may help fend them off

A shark rises from below, quickly inflicts a deep bite wound, then backs off to taste the result and wait for shock to quiet its prey before making a meal of it. The bite victim rarely sees the shark that bites. When a shark tastes something yucky — such as a human — it has plenty of saltwater to rinse out the bad taste as it swims away without eating.

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

The shark must get pretty annoyed with horrible-tasting humans who dress themselves up and then act to imitate a sea lion or harbor seal, two of its favorite meals. I suggest that folks buy bright, colorful wetsuits with block color patterns. The idea is to look different than a seal. Bright colors and unnatural color patterns may give a shark a reason to pause and take a closer look. That extra chance may be all that’s needed to avoid an attack.

However, I’m not absolutely certain of the effectiveness of bright colors and block patterns under all conditions. For example, a shark hunting during daylight hours is looking up at prey against the bright background of the sky. Ripples on the water may further complicate the visual image. I wonder if those factors may somewhat negate the benefit of colors and patterns, yet my conviction is that colors and patterns would only increase a swimmer’s chances of avoiding an attack.

There was a photo being passed around the waterfront some time ago of a surfer paddling out. In front of the surfer in the face of a wave is the unmistakable image of a very large shark. That is food for thought. Big-toothed sharks hunt close in because that’s where they find an abundance of pinnipeds. That is a calculable result of overprotecting pinnipeds. Sure, they are cute, but we can’t expect to overmanage one part of the food chain without affecting another part. An overabundance of shark food has a predictable result.

I have a special relationship with sharks because I fish for them as a charter captain. Sharks have tasted my blood twice now. Will the third time be a charm? I hope there will never be a third time.

While handling sharks, my crew members, Tiffany and Ramona Lisa, and I have learned much about their power and their moves. We have a great respect for those apex predators, but you should see them wrestle sharks on deck. They slam ‘em to the deck with a wrestling hold and talk to them like a linebacker talks to the guy with the football. It is a sight to behold.

— 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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