Opinion: One great white shark off La Jolla is one too many

Roger Raffee
La Jolla resident

It’s misleading for the marine biologist you interviewed to say that the chance of getting killed by a great white shark is less than getting hit by lightning. The problem is that the general population isn’t generally in the water in La Jolla. The odds are much higher if you only reference the populations that regularly swim, surf and dive in close proximity to the piniped population.

He said that the population of great whites would probably increase with the increase in the piniped population. Even one more great white cruising this area regularly is one too many.

There is no place in the world with large seal populations that could be considered safe to go in the water. Great whites follow them wherever they go.

The seals are not endangered — no one is claiming they are. They do have the islands to go to, which is where they came from. A few can stay and sleep on the rocks like they used to.

Within the next 20 years this place will be considered a dangerous place to swim and surf. The people who pushed having what will by then be a full-blown seal colony will have serious blood on their hands. Families will be devastated by the loss of their loved ones who will die the most horrible deaths imaginable. Generations of families will suffer.

It seems as if it’s mainly the majority — the people who don’t go in the water — who feel comfortable putting those of us who do at such great risk. That’s wrong.

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Posted by Kathy Day on Jan 20, 2011. Filed under Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

12 Comments for “Opinion: One great white shark off La Jolla is one too many”

  1. Greetings Roger,
    While I empathize with your concerns about public safety in regards to recreating and swimming in the sea near large pinniped colonies, however I dont agree with your opinion that even one white shark is many; in fact the sharks are part of the remedy in that regard. There is no established data base or conclusive data to demonstrate that shark populations around the coast are increasing, especially highly migratory species of macro apex predators like mako sharks, white sharks, orcas or sperm whales which are variously subject to a wide range of habitat hazards. These pressures include both directed commercial and recreational fishing and opportunistic/incidental/ catch and bycatch on the high seas and bio-accumulative pollutant loads. With large sharks especially the rate of reproductive maturation and reproductive turnover is slow relatively slow and infrequent when compared with a California sealion. Meanwhile the number of harbor seals and elephant seals arent necessarily over the top compared to historic levels either and there is a significant differences among the pinniped species as well. People mistakenly assume all seals and sealions are the same when there are vast differences. The stellar sealion/northern fur seals for example are still endangered in California. We should consider that if we arent lucky some of these species, including sharks may go the way of the grizzly bear, tule elk, salmons, tunas and swordfishes et al.
    Increased presence of sharks in fishing nets is indicative of increased fishing pressures more than it is an indicator of increased abundances. The increase in reports of shark sightings is an artifact of a more sensitive shark reporting network, earnest public fascination and a burgeoning shark attack industry and media thematic.
    Many of the reported/purported 'shark spottings' are erroneous and involve everything from misidentified dolphins to photo-shopped hoaxes. Stingrays are more of a hazard in Southern California than the sharks are. Statistically there have been just over 100 serious shark related injuries and barely a dozen fatalities in all of California's coast since the Zane Gray era, and this despite the fact that more people than ever are surfing and diving all over the state often in formerly remote and isolated locations.

    The Sharks are there and hopefully always will be,unlike the salmon and some other species that were once abundant and now rare or gone. Furthermore the ocean is a vast wilderness into which we humans visit and must for a inestimable abundance of reasons take greatest care at all times.

    Moreover, there are (not for lack of trying) still some wonderful rivers and lakes in California to swim in and in the case of California one has options (decaf) and plenty of swimming pools to feel safe in. Talk to a lifeguard or park ranger when you are concerned about wildife and remember that the fully most of the earth's surface is ocean and it shouldnt be fenced off or purged of wildife.

    Thats just my opinion as someone invested in shark (marine wildlife) research, conservation and public education.

    Surf with a buddy,
    Sean

    S.R. Van Sommeran
    Pelagic Shark Research Foundation
    Santa Cruz California
    Since 1990

  2. clk

    The seals should NOT be encouraged.

  3. npk32

    This is a real letter? The newspaper actually printed this?

  4. Guest

    Good letter. The truth is the average person does not actually go into the white shark danger zones. Most swimmers are in shallow surf, and most of the white sharks rarely venture to even the surf zone.
    Only the divers and to a lesser extent the surfers are in water deep enough to get hit by them.

    If you actually do the math only considering just the regular divers and surfers the odds of being attacked are much higher.
    The fake statistics are because they either divide by the entire population of the United States, or some by every person that visits a beach even though most of them never leave the sand.
    That would be like averaging lightning strikes by every person sitting inside during the lightning storm, like most people. But chances are much higher for the people standing outside on hill tops and in open fields.

    This seal colony will put surfers and divers in the area on very high hills in the lightning storm called the Great White.
    But that should still only effect those people that actually venture into the ocean, not your typical person that sits on the sand or gets their feet wet.
    You know, those same people that call the police when a mountain lion or bear minding its own business posing no real threat is spotted a mile from their house, but then hypocritically tell you to just 'deal' with swimming with the largest ambush predator in the world. (Which also just so happens to be a protected species.)

    And for mr sharkman, of course stingrays are more of a problem, 99%+ of all beach goers never do more than walk in the surf. That puts them at risk of stingrays, but not great whites.

    Most people have no problem with great whites because they are primarily a deeper water fish that ventures into shallower near known pinniped areas, or where really deep water and trenches coincide with the direction of the ocean current near shore, which is primarily rocky shore without the sand that attracts your typical beach goer.
    It is not because they are not man eaters that will readily kill, it is because your average person is not in the habitat they will run into them.
    This seal colony may change that though.
    The underwater La Jolla Canyon combined with the Children's Pool becoming a known snacking zone will allow white sharks to add it as a stop on their regular migrations.

  5. meakai

    While we're at it, I'd like all traffic to be eliminated from the freeway so I can continue to play with my kids in the street. They can go to another city to drive. Those who support continued traffic on the freeway will have blood on their hands when someone runs over one of the kids. Please, save the children.

  6. RICHARD

    My previous comment was replete with spelling errors so i am writing another one to redeem myself. The children's beach in La Jolla was created in order for children to have a safe and calm beach experience. This fact alone warrants the removal of the seals from that beach. However, the most critical justification for the removal of the seals is that they are attracting dangerous great white sharks along our coast. The ban on fishing for great whites in 1994 must be overturned immediately along with the culling of the out of control seal population. The seal population has risen from a mere 10,000 to over 250,000 in just the past 20 years. Human beings MUST BE PROTECTED IMMEDIATELY BEFORE ANOTHER TRAGIC ATTACK TAKES PLACE ! Richard Fawell

  7. RICHARD

    Unfortunately conservationists fail to realize that large human populations and dangerous wild animals do not get along, which is why we have zoos in large metropolitan areas. This is such an innate observation that is baffles the mind to see intelligent conservationists overlooking common sense. However, this clearly exposes the fanatical "fatal attraction" that they have for even apex predators that are of great danger to human beings. Much like religious fanatics that justify anything for their religion conservatiists are willing to sacrifice human beings in favor of the animal. The seals that have taken over the beach in La Jolla are an obvious statement of a non cerebral, fanatical approach that is clearly not in the best interest of our community and our society as a whole. Richard Fawell

  8. RICHARD

    Conservationists are making an ethical-philisopical judgement in favor of animals to the neglect of their own species. They believe that animals are of more worth than human beings. This is the basic tenant that that drives their hearts and minds which is why they are so dangerous to our society. Do you remember see the dismembered zombie like vicitms who spoke so glowingly about the sharks? They are perfect examples of the unstable, unreasonable, fanatical approach of conservationists!

  9. RICHARD

    do you remember seeing–spelling correction see above

  10. La Jolla Patriot

    WE NEED TO DREDGE THE ENTIRE BAY IN FRONT OF LA JOLLA BEACHES FOR GREAT WHITE SHARKS WHO HAVE COME IN HERE LIKE ILLEGAL ALIENS WITH GIANT TEETH. IF WE DON'T KILL EVERY POSSIBLE GREAT WHITE SHARK **BEFORE** IT CAN ATTACK ONE OF OUR CHILDREN THEN WE ARE ALL GUILTY OF HOMICIDAL NEGLIGENCE AND THAT IS THE USA CONSTITUTION TALKING, NOT ME!!! HUMANS FIRST. ITS WE THE PEOPLE, NOT WE THE SEALS. YOU CAN LOOK IT UP. WE MIGHT AS WELL JUST HAVE HUMAN SACRIFICE RITUALS NOW AND GET IT OVER WITH. OH BUT I BET THE GREENPEACE WOULD JUST LOOOOVE THAT!!!!!!!!

  11. RICHARD

    Human beings must be protected pure and simple! Conservatoists have blood on their hands and they KNOW IT!!! WE MUST REINSTATE THE CONTROLLED FISING OF THE GREAT WHITE ALONG WITH THE USE OF NETS. WHY ARE THEIRI NO SHARK NETS IN AMERICA–THE ONLY NATION IN THE WORLD WITHOUT THEM THAT HAS A DIFENITE SHARK PROBLEM? RICHARD FAWELL

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