Your View: I’m saying it’s true, because it is true

By L. Jordan-Smith, Ph.D.
La Jolla

I’d like to thank Mr. Raffee for allowing me to clarify my previous letter printed on Oct. 13.

My statement that he quoted saying that there is no evidence that the sharks’ movements are related to seal presence was specifically about white sharks in the La Jolla Cove area.

I do not pretend to deny that adult white sharks feed on marine mammals including seals. However, the white sharks that enter this area are typically juveniles which feed on fish, and this is based on papers published in scientific journals. The change in their diet from primarily fish to one including marine mammals is actually accompanied by a transition to a completely different tooth shape from narrow pointy teeth to the more triangular serrated teeth. If adult white sharks were using this area as a feeding ground we would see many more seals and sea lions with major injuries.

As to my credibility, I have published several peer-reviewed scientific papers on sharks and their close relatives, stingrays. I caution Mr. Raffee to heed his own advice, that simply stating something doesn’t make it true, and to extend this line of thought even to the Discovery Channel. To insinuate that a wild animal is a serial killer is utterly irresponsible and disingenuous. The study described in the article Mr. Raffee mentioned simply used similar statistical analyses to those used for criminals to look for patterns in shark feeding locations. It appears the drive for publicity caused their entertainment goals to outweigh their educational goals in sensationalizing the story, unfortunately this is not at all uncommon when it comes to sharks.

There is no question that sharks are extremely talented and efficient predators, equipped with entire sensory systems that we can study but only imagine perceiving the world through. Sharks have been top ocean predators since 200 million years before dinosaurs appeared. The point is that human injury and fatality from shark interactions are extremely rare and that white sharks in particular are an endangered species. There is no need to feed La Jolla’s citizens full of irrational fears about sharks when, as I stated previously, drowning and skin cancer should be of far greater concern for beachgoers.

Related posts:

  1. Your View: Statement on great whites doesn’t make it true
  2. Your View: Sharks, seals and La Jollans
  3. Your View: The Children’s Pool — A former lifeguard’s opinion
  4. Opinion: One great white shark off La Jolla is one too many
  5. Opinion: Key to ocean safety is not to panic

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Posted by Staff on Nov 19, 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

15 Comments for “Your View: I’m saying it’s true, because it is true”

  1. cyberKICK

    What exactly is your Ph.D in? Can you site references regarding your statements? I have done plenty of that myself. Would greatly help your credibility.

  2. cyberKICK

    I also forgot to mention, that divers have been reporting an increase in dead marine mammals (seals and sea lions) that have ripped apart in the kelp beds. Most of the credit for this has been going to seven gill sharks, but I don't have the expertise to know that. However, it sounds like you don't dive much, and haven't really been looking around under the water. You seem to be basing your statements solely on what you can see from the sidewalk. On top of that I know a diver who was bit recently. He was okay, but a bit rattled. To say that sharks won't tend to be around their food just doesn't make sense. Since you don't go in the water… try this experiment: spread bird seed around outside and see if you get more birds.

  3. James

    When you write something like "…divers have been reporting an increase in dead marine mammals (seals and sea lions) that have ripped apart in the kelp beds." you should probably add a citation! Is there a site or agency that divers are reporting to or is this an informal survey you're conducting?
    Where do you get that he doesn't go in the water much?

    I to would like to know what papers he's written but I probably won't understand much in a Ph.D paper.
    But I hope what you say is true and there are seals and sea lions being eaten by sharks in the ocean seems like what's suppose to go on there! When we stop seeing sharks and seals feel free to ring the alarm!

    • cyberKICK

      I was guessing based on the overall tone of his article. Being in the water you see the sharks, and the frequency we are seeing them with our own eyeballs is much higher. I am just talking about first hand experience along with talking with many divers I know. If you want to verify, go to the spearboard website.

    • cyberKICK

      Yes, they have been reporting to the lifeguards, on spearboard, and on sharkresearchcommittee. Please check with places that have good information. Since I've seen the increase myself, I'm sure most reputable sources will also have similar findings.

      As for not being able to read a Ph.D paper, just because the author claims to have a Ph.D doesn't mean it is in Ocean Biography, nor any related field. I don't think the author was trying to say it is correct because of the degree anyway. I asked for sources so that I could check out what was being said in more depth. I didn't ask just to try to discredit the author. That would come if no sources were ever posted, or the sources turned out to be bad.

      • James

        If you're going to phrase something so it seems like a fact please add a citations as well or at the very least say something like "from my observations…".

        At the end of the day it doesn't really matter it's the ocean it's where sharks, fish, seals and sea lions belong and I hope they are always around. As you've pointed out "shared use" seems to not bother the seals one bit and as long as the MMPA keeps people from making a real effort to relocate the seal population I don't see the perceived "problem" of increased shark numbers being a controllable issue. All of this is more pandering to shark phobias (selachophobia) to stop someone from exercising there freedom of speech/ get the police and/or DA to address harassment of people at CP. I don't understand how making people afraid of sharks will achieve that goal! There's been one fatal shark attack in SD County in the past 50 years!!! Yes one spear fishermen was bit near CP (while swimming with stabbed fish tied to his waist) but the shark didn't even break his skin.

        • cyberKICK

          I would agree with that. I know there are more sharks now and that would seem to make sense with having more shark food around. My problem was how the article said there was no corrolation between shark food and shark movements. If the sharks didn't move towards their food, they wouldn't be very good hunters. We know they are excellent hunters, and so obviously they would be attracted to their food.

          • James

            What's "obvious" isn't always true! We would need evidence (like reports that you've mentioned) to be collected and analyzed by marine biologist to really "know" what's going on with shark populations in the La Jolla area. Until that's done it's all just based on assumptions and theories.

          • cyberKICK

            Okay, then why weren't the marine biologists listened to when they said that this beach isn't important to the seals, and this colony of seals isn't important to te population of seals? Please Google and read The children's pool doyle hanan report.

            Also, I guess you are right about the theory that animals are attracted to their food source. The increase in sharks I have personally witnessed are not there looking for food, but rather to look at the food. After all, why would sharks want to be so mean as to eat. It is just coinsidence that if you leave food out ants start to eat it. Perhaps we need a professional to know that leaving food out might attracts pests. Otherwise it is all assumptiosn and theories.

          • James

            So what if the colony is not vital? Her testimony is about building the new lifeguard tower I'm not sure what that has to do with this article. I hope they get the permits all sorted out and can get started on that project ASAP.

            As far as sharks and seals go, even if the seals have attracted more sharks (the article is really only about white sharks so that leaves the possibility of his statements being true and there are just more seven gills or some other seal eating sharks) I'm still confused on why that's a problem. It's the ocean there should be lots of sharks and seals and fish and what not!

          • cyberKICK

            Actually the testomony was on restoring the beach and maintaining it. It was for the plan to dredge the beach, clean up all the seal waste, repair the wall and lifeguard tower.

          • James

            I'm in favor of all of it as long as it doesn't hurt the animals.

          • cyberKICK

            The study said that if the seals go in the water, that is okay, and that the "incidental" harassment that would occur from the repairs and dredging would not harm the seals.

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