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Something’s Fishy

Zack Mintz, Multimedia Staff

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Among lovers of the outdoors, the Bay Area is notoriously “sharky”. Many surfers and sailors can speak to the presence of Great White Sharks, which patrol the San Francisco Bay and the surrounding coast. What they don’t know, is the likelihood of falling victim to the so-called “men in grey suits” has increased dramatically in the last two months.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle’s outdoor writer Tom Stienstra, multiple factors have all come together to make shark attacks in and around the Bay Area more likely. Last week, the ocean temperature in San Francisco reached 64 degrees, thanks to El Niño, a weather pattern characterized by the warming of ocean temperatures in the Pacific. This temperature is five degrees warmer than the average temperature for mid-October, and large sharks often flock to warmer waters, especially during the fall.

This past summer, the California coast generated an abundance of marine riches, such as krill, anchovies, and mackerel. Fish-eating ocean dwellers will swim hundreds of miles to feast on the small creatures, and sharks are at the top of the food chain.

As a result, more sharks are now congregating in the Bay. During the 1990s, scientists estimated anywhere between 200 to 400 great white sharks inhabited the San Francisco coast. Recently, 10 scientists conducted a study that found there are now around 2,400 great white sharks in the same area. Slight difference.

Just last Saturday, on October 10th, tourists watched from a dock on Alcatraz as a large shark devoured a seal in a bloody frenzy. From a video captured by spectators, experts believe it was a great white shark approximately eight-to-ten feet in length. According to David McGuire, Director of the San Francisco-based shark conservation group Shark Stewards and Research Associate at the California Academy of Sciences, “This [attack] is the first recorded predation event I know of in the San Francisco Bay.”

In the last century, the Bay Area has experienced only 70 shark attacks, solely one of which was fatal. On May 7th, 1959, 18-year-old college student Albert Kogler Jr. met a great white shark at Baker Beach while swimming with classmate Shirley O’Neill. Kogler Jr. suffered lacerations and puncture wounds, from which he did not recover. O’Neill, who stayed close to Kogler throughout the attack and pulled him 50 yards to shore, received the Young American Medal for Bravery in 1961 from President John F. Kennedy and the Carnegie Heroism Medal in 1960.

Despite the increased chances of running into sharks on the water, the odds of being seriously injured or killed are still low. 90 percent of humans bitten by great white sharks survive, and many more shark attack victims walk away with minor injuries often treated right at the beach.

When it comes to sharks, it is important to recognize their existence and the dangers they present, but only so much. Sharks’ maleficent nature stems from their glorification in the media thanks to movies like “Jaws” or “Sharknado.” These stereotypes encourage misconceptions about sharks, which keep many would-be beach goers out of the Bay Area’s waters. There is little that can be done to prevent shark attacks from happening, other than staying out of the water completely. Yet California’s oceans and beaches are among of the main reasons so many people flock to its coasts, so for those of us who cannot bear neglecting the ocean, the danger presented by sharks is too small to remain on land. 


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The student news site of Head-Royce School
Something’s Fishy