Why do we love and fear sharks so much? Is it really all about the teeth? It can’t be, because not all sharks are man-eating second cousins of the mighty megalodon. In fact, the biggest of them, the whale shark, is a filter feeder that eats tiny stuff in great quantities. The poor critter would probably gag if a person swam into its mouth.
The variety of sharks is amazing and their specialties are fascinating. We’ve got some that are so beautiful they are entrancing, like the leopard shark, some that are ugly as an old fence post, some that are sinewy and graceful, and some that have fascinating feeding habits and eat small fish like mackerel.
Not many of our local sharks are big-tooth apex predators that you might have to worry about as a swimmer or diver.
We fish for many species of sharks because they are fresh, healthy and tasty table fare which are carefully managed for sustainability. After the fishing battle and we have one aboard the boat, we treat its business end with respect because that is now a stressed animal and might react violently to try to escape.
One of the larger species we target for the dinner table is the thresher shark which has a long powerful tail for whacking and stunning its prey. I’ve been clocked by those tails and it hurts. Another very popular shark for the dinner table is the leopard shark which is truly a critter so beautiful it is almost stunning.
Other sharks we encounter near shore with some regularity are shovelnose (guitar fish), angel, sand, smoothound, pinback, swell and mako.
On that list, the mako is the one I’d worry most about because it is a big-tooth shark, and an exceptionally large specimen may decide to bite a human for a variety of reasons. Actually, they are designed to eat fish and their skills are impressive.
The great white shark (nicknamed Landlord) does forage in our waters and sharkbites do occur. There is no denying that, but studying them offers clues to safety.
A class about sharks begins 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 16. It is part of Santa Barbara Community College’s Extended Learning Program and the six-class meeting term (six Monday evenings) will be held at the Wake Center on Turnpike Road.
I am blessed to be teaching the class and doubly blessed because guest presentations will be skillfully done by the research staff of the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. Here is how to sign up for this fee-based class:
Go to https://sbcc.augusoft.net/ and tap on Click to Register. Registering will give you a student ID number. Keep that number because it will allow you to register for the class.
After registering, find the Search box and enter 23055, which is the class ID. The search takes you to a page where you can sign up. If you are already registered in the system, just log in and search for the class ID, 23055.
— 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.