Tourists Record Great White Shark Devouring Seal in San Francisco Bay

By Fimrite, Peter; Williams, Kale | Honolulu Star - Advertiser, October 13, 2015 | Go to article overview

Tourists Record Great White Shark Devouring Seal in San Francisco Bay


Fimrite, Peter, Williams, Kale, Honolulu Star - Advertiser


SAN FRANCISCO >> Savage nature was on display when a great white shark devoured a seal just a few feet off Alcatraz Island in full view of gawking tourists, the first attack by the ferocious finned predator in the modern history of San Francisco Bay.

The bloody spectacle over the weekend was proof that one of the most feared beasts of prey in the ocean sometimes takes feeding forays into bay waters that swimmers, windsurfers and kayakers frequent. Some believe it was also a sign that this year's robust El Nino is driving sharks northward into uncharted territory.

The attack was recorded in all its gory detail by a tourist standing on a dock, complete with the superlative-laced exclamations of a boy who had a once-in-a-lifetime view of the carnage. (Viewable at: http://bit.ly/1LgMY6s)

``That's a great white! Holy crud!'' yelled the boy in the video taken by tourist Meredith Coppolo Shindler, which showed the telltale dorsal fin skimming around a deep red plume of blood left by the butchered pinniped.

``It's Jaws! It's Jaws!'' he bellowed, breaking into his own rendition of the theme song from the classic thriller about a shark with little appetite for seals. ``That's the awesomest thing I've ever seen in my life!''

The scene was an indication of how the carnivores move within the so-called Red Triangle, an area roughly between Monterey Bay, the Farallon Islands and Bodega Head, according to marine biologists.

Fall is prime time for great whites off the coast of San Francisco. But while they have been documented inside the bay in the past using electronic monitoring, they have rarely been spotted by eye or camera lens inside the Golden Gate, let alone seen stalking and attacking prey.

``This is the first recorded predation event I know of in the San Francisco Bay,'' said David McGuire, a research associate at the California Academy of Sciences who directs the San Francisco-based conservation group Shark Stewards.

After viewing the viral footage, he said, ``It definitely looks like a white shark, about 8-10 feet, from the phone video sent to us. The tourists were pretty excited.''

Bay shark attacks may not be unprecedented. On July 8, 1926, Norman Peixotto and his dog Lucky were attacked off Bay Farm Island in Alameda. Both were seriously injured, but survived, according to the book ``Shark Attacks of the Twentieth Century.''

Large numbers of great white sharks have been seen this year in Monterey Bay and elsewhere off the coast of San Francisco. The predators, which average 15 to 16 feet in length but can grow up to 21 feet and weigh as much as 7,000 pounds, typically return from the deep ocean to feed at the Farallon Islands this time of year.

Something, however, changed this year. At least 15 great whites, including an 18-footer, were seen in June in and around Monterey Bay near popular spots for paddleboarding, kayaking, swimming and fishing. A big group of juvenile white sharks was also spotted in Monterey Bay, the first time anyone can remember a shark rookery this far north.

Sean Van Sommeran, the executive director and founder of the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation in Santa Cruz, said a single 5-foot-long shark pup was seen in Monterey Bay in June 2014. …

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