From Sharks to Birds: Attacks and Protection in the Ocean

Jennifer Savage / Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011 @ 8:20 a.m. / Ocean , Op-Ed , Random Sightings , wildlife

And thus with November arriving, “Sharktober” draws to a close. The month earned its moniker this year, with an encounter off Samoa Beach, a sighting at the same place, numerous sightings at the North Jetty and off the Freshwater Spit. A Crescent City fisherman provided YouTube thrills after recording a great white circling his boat near Pebble Beach. This time of year, the theory goes, the ocean is typically at its most flush with salmon, bringing seals and sea lions, and making the whole northerly coast rather buffet-like. A surfer off Monterey sustained injuries in a attack last Saturday, and yesterday at the RipCurl Pro Search surf contest, Hawaiian surfer Dusty Payne was welcomed to San Francisco’s Ocean Beach with a three-foot fin cruising by and scaring him right out of his heat. Historically, we’ve had attacks as late as November 11 locally. If you’re in the water, pay attention.

But out of the water, remember this: Sharks have much more to fear from us than we do from them. Humans slaughter an estimated 73 million sharks every year, primarily for their fins. California recently took a step in the right direction, joining Hawaii, Washington and Oregon in banning the sale, trade and possession of shark fins through the passing of AB376, co-authored by Assemblymembers Paul Fong and Jared Huffman (Huffman is also a 2nd district congressional candidate). Not only is this good news for the sharks, but protecting top predators serves to keep other species in balance and keeps ocean ecosystems healthier as a whole.

Speaking of ocean ecosystems, the network of Marine Protected Areas approved unanimously by North Coast stakeholders earlier this year continues to wend through the California Fish & Game Commission. At their most recent meeting, the FGC continued to pursue a way to incorporate traditional tribal take into these “underwater parks” proposed through the Marine Life Protection Act. This effort between North Coast tribes and state government staff is no small deal – progress made through the MLPA relationship heralds a new era of partnership, best expressed by InterTribal Sinkyone Director Hawk Rosales in his Nov. 2 Sacramento Bee op-ed column.

In addition to the political strides and proven conservation effectiveness, marine protected areas are usually particularly pretty places to visit. Anna Weinstein of the Audubon Society blogged last month about her tour through proposed protected areas along the North Coast, admiring the views, the abundant wildlife and the opportunity to safeguard an environmentally critical area:

“…thirteen species of seabirds breed at Castle Rock and across the north coast MLPA section from the Oregon border to Pt. Arena. Liberally dotted with rocks and islets, this part of our state is home to 40 percent of California’s breeding seabirds. Wild and sparsely populated, there is an opportunity here to take a precautionary approach to conservation – to secure protection for marine wildlife before it is heavily impacted by people.”

The next FGC meeting takes place Wednesday, Nov. 16 and Thursday, Nov. 17 in Santa Barbara, and can be viewed online at CalSpan.org. The North Coast is in the beginning stages of environmental review with actual implementation not expected until next fall. (Link to agenda as available here.)

Finally, this is also the time of year when the ocean commonly goes from placid to overwhelming in the course of a day. Know what to expect before you go by checking tides and marine forecasts, and always staying a safe distance away from water’s edge.

Upcoming ocean/conservation-related events:

Today: Beth Werner and Mike Dronkers talk Humboldt waterways on Coastal Currents at noon. Tune into 104.3/104.7 FM or via khum.com.

Saturday, Nov. 5: Little River State Beach Restoration, 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Help Friends of the Dunes restore the dunes at Little River State Beach. See areas where heavy equipment has been used to remove European beachgrass and help remove the bits that were missed. See what native plants are already starting to grow and enjoy some free pizza. More information at (707) 444-1397 or emily@friendsofthedunes.org.

Tuesday, Nov. 8: Surfrider Foundation, Humboldt Chapter meeting at 6 p.m., Humboldt Brewery music room. First two pitchers of beer on the chapter. Discussion includes current chapter projects, volunteer needs and other news on area water quality, beach access and wave protection concerns.

Thursday, Nov. 10: Ocean Night, Arcata Theatre Lounge. Join Ocean Conservancy, Humboldt Surfrider and Humboldt Baykeeper for an all-ages night of environmental documentaries and surf flicks.

Saturday, Nov. 12: Surfrider Foundation, Humboldt Chapter highway clean-up and sign installation at Camel Rock/Houda Point. See surfrider.org/Humboldt for full details.

Saturday, Nov. 19: Join Sierra Club North Group for a hike along Table Bluff and the mouth of Eel River. Carpool meets at 9 a.m. or be at the beach at 9:30 a.m. Full details from Xandra at (707) 441-0702.

Jennifer Savage is the North Coast Coordinator, Pacific Programs, for Ocean Conservancy and also chairs Surfrider Foundation’s Humboldt Chapter.

 

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