Sharks Live in the Ocean, Part 2

[Read Part 1]

When we swim in the ocean we share the water with an abundance of other life, some of it larger and toothier than we are. Just because we don’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not there. And just because they’re there doesn’t mean they care about us, or want anything to do with us.

Members of the South End Rowing Club and Dolphin Club, who share a beach on Aquatic Park, San Francisco, were recently reminded of these truths when a three-foot juvenile salmon shark swam into the cove and spent a few minutes cruising around near our docks. Salmon sharks sport a distinctive white underbelly and are sometimes mistaken for juvenile Great Whites. Though adults can grow to 10 feet long, they’re generally not considered a threat to humans.

Some footage taken by South Ender Gary Emich:

[Link to YouTube video]

The shark is behaving oddly and appears disoriented. According to the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation in Santa Cruz, this shark may be suffering from a carnobacterium infection and resulting blindness. The PSRF has received several other reports recently of sharks beaching themselves elsewhere in Northern California.

salmon shark

Salmon shark (not the one in the video).

I didn’t swim at the South End the morning our confused fish friend visited us. But actually, I wish that I had. Though the idea of a shark cruising around Aquatic Park is startling, the primary emotion I feel watching that video is not fear but sympathy and curiosity. Sympathy for his suffering, and curiosity at seeing an animal that typically avoids human contact, swimming silently, anonymously, indifferently below our stroking arms.

Related external post:

The landlord’s in town, and the rent is due

A sobering summary of recent shark activity in Santa Barbara County by Peter Howarth, director of the SB Marine Mammal Center (courtesy of Shark Research Committee):


  • 14 April 2012 Shark attacked adult female sea lion off Stearn’s Wharf, Santa Barbara Harbor.  Sea lion rescued by harbor patrol, then it was brought to the dock to Santa Barbara Marine Mammal Center (SBMMC) volunteers, where it died from shock and blood loss;
  • 20 July 2012 Male southern sea otter attacked at Guadalupe Dunes. Rescued by ranger and brought halfway to Santa Barbara, where it was picked up by SBMMC volunteers. Transferred to Mike Harris of CA Dept. Fish & Game for necropsy;
  • 15-20 July 2012 Adult female California sea lion attacked, received two bites on pelvic area;
  • 25 July 2012 Sea lion above reported on mooring buoy off East Beach, Santa Barbara. Sea lion left when harbor patrol approached too closely;
  • 25 July 2012 Sea lion attacked by shark off Leadbetter Point, Santa Barbara (Properly called Santa Barbara Point). Reported by Dan Collie, charter boat captain;
  • 27 July 2012 Sea lion attacked during period 20-25 July rescued but had to be euthanized;
  • *10-11 August 2012 Male Pacific harbor seal, 5-6 months old, attacked off Carpinteria sea rookery;
  • 12 August 2012 Above harbor seal reported on beach at rookery but washed away before rescued;
  • 13 August 2012 Harbor seal rescued. Bite on dorsal chest and another on pelvic area. Shattered pelvic bones. Animal died 16 August;
  • 14 August 2012 (0930): Eight-foot shark approached paddle boarder closely off Carpinteria.  Lifted head out of water to look at person;
  • **14 August 2012 (1720): Shark approached within 5 feet of surfer. It was 5-6 feet between dorsal and caudal fin; girth estimated at 3 feet. Estimated shark at 10 – 14 feet total length;
  • 15 August 2012 6-foot great white seen underwater by urchin diver off Santa Barbara light in afternoon (west of Leadbetter Beach about one mile); and 15 August 2012  Another shark reported seen by surfer friend of urchin diver off Leadbetter. No other details.