Sharks discovered entering Bay 

Brian Monroe was surfing in choppy conditions off Ocean Beach during low tide on a recent cloudy afternoon when the ominous figure of a ferocious predator broke the water’s surface.

Experts say a 2-foot dorsal fin that emerged less than 100 yards away belonged to a great white shark.

“I turned right towards shore and calmly paddled in,” Monroe said. “I didn’t want to draw attention to myself.”

Encounters with the large marine creatures are common off California’s beaches, where they are frequently spotted, but researchers have discovered that they venture under the Golden Gate Bridge and into San Francisco Bay.

A handful of radio-tagged great whites were detected swimming inside the Bay during a multiyear international study into the species’ Pacific Ocean migration patterns.

Out of 78 sharks that were tagged with acoustic transmitters between 2006 and 2008, five were detected passing through the Golden Gate, according to research results published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, a scientific journal.

The sharks did not venture deep into the sprawling estuary. Instead, they stayed close to its mouth, which straddles the counties of Marin and San Francisco.

The findings lend credibility to a long-standing theory that a 1926 attack on a boy in blood-tainted waters near a whale-processing facility close to Oakland was the work of a great white shark.

The offending species was never definitively identified, and great whites have never been spotted inside the Bay, according to Ralph Collier, an official with the nonprofit Shark Research Committee.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if great whites were to enter the Bay,” Collier said. “For years, it was suspected.”

Because of their hunting techniques, young sharks between 9 and 12 feet long are more likely than adults to enter the Bay, according to Collier.

Wetsuit-clad surfers and divers are vulnerable to attacks because they resemble the marine mammals sharks eat.

But swimmers are more likely to be killed. The most recent death in California blamed on a great white occurred two years ago, when a 66-year-old retired veterinarian was attacked while swimming at Fletcher Cove, north of San Diego.

Roughly two shark attacks were documented annually along the Pacific coastline between 1950 and 2000, according to figures published by the shark research group.

Great whites were the suspected culprits in 87 percent of California shark attacks, the group’s figures show.

jupton@sfexaminer.com


Rough waters

Fatal attacks in California blamed on great white sharks:

April 2008: Swimmer at Fletcher Cove, San Diego County

August 2004: Diver at Ten Mile River Beach, Mendocino County

August 2003: Swimmer at Avila Beach, San Luis Obispo County

December 1994: Diver at San Miguel Island, Santa Barbara County

January 1989: Kayaker at Paradise Cove, Los Angeles County

September 1984: Diver at Pigeon Point, San Mateo County

December 1981: Surfer at South Moss Beach, Monterey County

June 1959: Swimmer at Alligator Head, San Diego County

May 1959: Swimmer at Baker Beach, San Francisco County

April 1957: Swimmer at Atascadero Beach, San Luis Obispo County

December 1952: Swimmer at Point Aulone, Monterey County

Source: www.sharkresearchcommittee.com

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