Friday, October 17, 2014

Surfers face new reality as great whites become frequent visitors

By Doug Fraser

EASTHAM — When a gray shape passes silently under his or her board, it's always there in a surfer's mind, that maybe this one is a great white shark. Most of the time, the big whiskered head of a seal will pop up with a noisy snort and curious stare.

There was no doubt in paddleboarder Tom Menard's mind that he was looking at a great white last week while out at Coast Guard Beach with more than a dozen other surf enthusiasts. The water was only 5 feet deep, and clear right to the bottom.



Top Photo
A great white shark swims over a wave south of Nauset Inlet on Oct. 6.ATLANTIC WHITE SHARK CONSERVANCY
 
He'd just commented to those nearby that there weren't any seals around.

"I saw this shark as clear as can be," Menard recalled. "There was no mistaking it. I remember watching the outline of his tail, the whole thing."

Menard estimated it was around 12 feet in length, and really wide, as it passed between him and a woman surfer just 5 feet away.

"She looked at me and said, 'Was that just a shark?'"

Menard yelled out a warning and nearly everyone went in to shore.

"It does spook you a little bit," said Menard, 65, who's been surfing the Cape for 40 years. "This is the first time in my life I've ever seen one swim by."

Surfers have become more accustomed to the new reality of life in the water: There seem to be more great whites every year, and, since they hunt seals close to shore, they are being spotted in the surf line.

"We have seen numerous sharks close to shore this season," Atlantic White Shark Conservancy director Cynthia Wigren.

On Thursday, pilot Wayne Davis was circling over Nauset Beach in Orleans, a little south of the main beach, when he saw a great white swimming lazily near a surfer and paddleboarder. Surfers have become attuned to the presence of the spotter plane and the outboard boat state shark researcher Greg Skomal uses to tag great whites. The paddleboarder and surfer took the hint and went in, said Wigren.

"This is something we've seen all season," Wigren said of surfers who get out when they see the plane and boat. Her nonprofit organization has raised money to support Skomal's shark tagging for the past two years.

If people don't leave the water, and researchers feel they are in jeopardy, they may call the harbormaster's office to get someone out to encourage them, Wigren added.

Sharks are here to hunt seals, not people, Wigren said. "However, they still pose a risk and it's important for people to be aware of their presence."

The shark conservancy has safety tips on its website, including advice not to swim or surf alone, particularly at dawn and dusk, and to stay at least 150 feet from seals.

There have only been two incidents in recent years: the 2013 attack on Chris Myers, who was swimming off Ballston Beach in Truro, and last month's attack on two kayakers who were close to a group of seals in Plymouth Harbor. Shark experts felt the bite on Myers was investigatory. He was injured but was able to do a long swim to shore without a second attack. The kayakers in Plymouth did experience a full-on attack, according to Skomal's associate researcher, John Chisholm. Although they were knocked from their kayaks, the shark did not return. One of the kayaks was damaged but neither of the women was injured.

Even though Skomal and his team have identified 60 great whites in Cape Cod waters this year, and acknowledge there may be many more they haven't seen, there's been little interaction between humans and sharks. Surfers take a realistic outlook on it. The likelihood is slim — but the danger is real.

Based on his experience, Menard thinks great whites don't seem to be all that interested in people. Until they are.

"I just think he might not have been hungry," he said. "They just aren't an eating machine, 24/7."

Monday morning, the temperature at Nauset Beach was balmy and the waves small but robust enough that three friends donned wetsuits and caught short fast rides in the shorebreak not far from where the great white was seen last Thursday.

Standing in chest-deep water, Mike Coute of Dennisport shot video and stills of friends Julien Swanson of Orleans and Dan Nenninger of Dennis as they crouched under the breaking waves and slashed quick exits out the backside when they closed out.

"I've gotten out a few times when I thought there was a shark," Coute said. Since great whites were first tagged in the area in 2009, he's gotten a little more cautious. He won't go out early or late afternoon if no one else is in the water.

"It's like walking the woods," said Swanson. "You could get smoked by a bear."

But Coute can't see the possibility of a shark attack keeping him from surfing.

"Unless something terrible happened to me," he said.




Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Great White on A Stick!

Watch the moment a spear fisherman swims TOWARDS a Great White shark to jab it with his gun

  • Trevor Ketchion encountered the great white off Queensland's Sunshine Coast on SundayFootage shot by the spear fisher shows the shark lurking metres below

  • He bravely swam within inches of the mammoth shark to jab it with his gun

  • Being aggressive towards the shark is common practice among spear fishers as it can deter the animal from attacking

It's a close encounter with a great white shark that could of ended very badly.
Trevor Ketchion bravely swam within inches of a mammoth shark in a bid to deter it as he and a friend were spear fishing off Queensland's Sunshine Coast on Sunday.

Footage of the eerie encounter shows the great white lurking metres below the surface as Mr Ketchion watched on from above.
Trevor Ketchion bravely swam within inches of a mammoth shark in a bid to deter it as he and a friend were spear fishing off Queensland's Sunshine Coast on Sunday
Trevor Ketchion bravely swam within inches of a mammoth shark in a bid to deter it as he and a friend were spear fishing off Queensland's Sunshine Coast on Sunday

While an average person might be quick to swim away, Mr Ketchion swam directly towards the shark and jabbed it on its back with his spear gun.

Being aggressive towards the shark is common practice among spear fishers as it can deter the animal from attacking because it fears the spear fisher as a predator.
And in Mr Ketchion's case it worked.

Footage shot by the spear fisher showed the great white slowly moving on from the area.
Mr Ketchion posted the video online and on social media, much to the amazement of his followers.
 

Footage of the eerie encounter shows the great white lurking metres below the surface as Mr Ketchion watched on from above


Footage of the eerie encounter shows the great white lurking metres below the surface as Mr Ketchion watched on from above

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Baby great white shark amazes beachgoers in Monterey

By Amy Larson

MONTEREY, Calif. —A small shark caused a stir at three Monterey beaches, while a massive 18-foot great white swam by Marina mostly unnoticed. 

Early Sunday morning a little shark swam into shallow water while hundreds of athletes were getting ready to play ocean water polo for the Monterey Bay SportsFest at Del Monte Beach.

"Adults and children were amazed and intrigued after the lifeguards identified it as a harmless salmon shark. There was a giant crowd following it as it was cruising in the shallows for a good 20 minutes," witness Rachael Zalan said.
 
great white shark
Diver Patrick Webster shot this underwater video of a baby great white in the Monterey harbor. 
Patrick Webster

As it turns out, it might not have been a salmon shark.

On Monday, diver and Monterey Bay Aquarium employee Patrick Webster saw a similar-sized little shark in Monterey harbor by Fisherman's Wharf and shot GoPro video of it underwater.

Sean Van Sommeran of the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation watched the HD GoPro footage and identified it as a baby great white.

A great white shark pup has not been seen in the Monterey Bay in recent history, Sommeran said.
"Most white shark pups are seen down off Southern California and Baja regions, and much earlier in the year, typically," Sommeran said.

Unusual ocean animals have appeared this year while the Monterey Bay buoy recorded record-high water temperatures, most notably on July 23 when the ocean was 68 degrees.

Also on Sunday, a little shark that was likely the same one at the Monterey Beach Sportsfest caused alarm when it swam close to kids playing at Monterey State Beach.

Siobhan Thomas was watching her daughters boogie board when the shark appeared.
"We were enjoying the beautiful weather today at Monterey State Beach. As we watched our daughters boogie boarding we saw this shark swimming towards my daughter! My husband pulled the shark out of the water by its tail, only to be told that was illegal because it was a baby great white!" Thomas said.

The shark was quickly re-released back into the ocean.  While the attention of Monterey beachgoers was focused on the baby shark, there was a much bigger, adult great white shark a few beaches north in Marina.

Sommeran had an aerial view from a helicopter when he saw the 18-foot great white circling between Marina State Beach and Fort Ord Dunes State Park on Sunday. It was not acting aggressively.      
"No drama," Sommeran said.

The great white was "cruising through the luxuriously warm water off of Fort Ord beach and Marina, shadowing a pod of dolphins and orbiting," he said.

During a helicopter ride on Monday, the massive great white was seen again hanging out just 200 feet away from shore at Fort Ord Dunes.

If you are afraid of great white sharks, there is some good news. Fewer great whites have been seen this fall compared to previous years, Sommeran said.

Little shark in Monterey
The little shark is seen at Monterey State Beach. (Oct. 5, 2014)
Siobhan Thomas

 Strange species also showed up at Southern California beaches this week.

Several pods of sperm whales were sighted a few miles off Laguna Beach on Monday. More than 50 mothers and juveniles rolled and played with dolphins before heading south past Dana Point.

"I've been counting whales and been on the water for 35 years. We've never had a large group like this ever," said Alisa Schulman-Janiger, director of the ACS/LA Gray Whale Census and Behavior Project.