Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Solana Beach Shark Attack and La Jolla Seals

Recently a man, Dr. David Martin, in his 60s was attacked and killed by a Great White shark about 450ft out in Solana Beach, California, in San Diego County. It was said to be a 15 to 16ft shark. Usually Great White sharks and other sharks of that size tend to live in colder waters in Northern California. La Jolla, also in San Diego County and just miles South of Solana Beach, has its share of sharks but they are usually a lot smaller than that and for the most part, harmless. The Leopard sharks in shallow sandy beaches of La Jolla are a popular place for people to snorkel since these sometimes six foot sharks are harmless and fascinating to swim with. There are other larger sharks that people frequently see while diving in the kelp beds of La Jolla but they have not been known to attack divers out there.

Just a little South of the La Jolla Shores and La Jolla Cove is a man-made sea-wall that surrounds a beach called the Children's Pool. Recently environmental activists have gotten their way and this beach is now a sanctuary for a large seal population. On any given day you will find sometimes over one hundred seals on this beach and on the surrounding rocks of La Jolla. I like to kayak in the La Jolla area and just got an apartment in that area so I call La Jolla now my home. In 2007 a local kayaker was kayaking just around the Cove area, somewhere I kayak all the time, and spotted a large shadow move under him. As he started to pay closer attention he was able to make out the distinct shark features. It was only about ten feet below the surface and was about twenty feet long, using his big kayak as a reference for size. The only shark of that size that is in these waters is a Great White.

I have lived in San Diego County all of my life and have seen several sharks in the water but none this size. Some have said it has been fifty years since a fatal shark attach in this area and the death of David Martin has made national news as a result. The past few years there has been more of an increase of Great White shark spottings in this area and many believe it is a result of the seal population. I share this belief.

With the seals taking over a once popular safe beach, originally designated for children, there is a very safe breeding ground for them and this is a prime spot for sharks to feed. The seal population has been heavily concentrated to this area right next to the La Jolla Cove and La Jolla Shores which are areas very populated by swimmers, kayakers, surfers, snorkelers, divers, and other people who partake in recreational water activities in this beautiful destination. Every time I go kayaking or swimming in that area, I definitely see at least twenty seals. They are everywhere be it on the rocks or just floating in the water, basking in the sun. They will just pop up next to your kayak or next to you swimming from time to time also. They are pretty much everywhere.

Something needs to be done about this. The beach designated for the seals should be moved to a place elsewhere not so close to popular beaches filled with people. Many people predict that the shark attacks will become more and more frequent. It is not the sharks trying to eat people. They are mistaking us for one of the seals that there is an over abundance of in this area. Larger sharks, such as these Great White sharks, usually use deeper water to feed since they are large and attack from the bottom using that depth. With a heavy concentration of seals being in some of the shallower water, this might draw them in closer. Divers with their fins and black wet suits look a whole lot like seals, especially in some of the murky water churned up by the water crashing into the rocks. It is only a matter of time until someone gets attacked again and then spit out because he or she did not taste like a seal. With the mouth the size of a 16+ foot Great White shark and razer sharp teeth, just a testing nibble is enough to kill and in the case of Dr. David Martin, that is what happened to him.


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