**This blog entry orginally appeared on the website oceanspaces.org.**/p>
A video of a shark consuming a sea lion off of Alcatraz last weekend has created quite a stir among the swimming and rowing community in the San Francisco Bay. A group of tourists witnessed something extremely rare and never recorded inside the bay: a predation event by a great white shark on a sea lion.
This video taken on a cell phone, with an excited boy doing his own rendition of the jaws theme has gone viral. https://youtu.be/eFumUdCSgOQ
Each fall the Great White Sharks return to the central California coast to feed in the rich waters of the Gulf of the Farallones and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuaries. Due to the increased sightings of white sharks in our region, and the increased risk of encounters, local surfers call the season Sharktober.
These enigmatic apex predators are returning after an epic ocean voyage crossing the ocean from a communal feeding area thousands of miles offshore in what is termed the White Shark Cafe. Around 100 large white sharks aggregate at the Farallon Islands to feed on elephant seals, while smaller sharks prey along the coastline. As a naturalist I lead trips during sharktober and the action is heating up! There is nothing so impressive than a 3000 pound shark preying on a seal, but most of my fellow Dolphin Club swimmers would prefer it occurs at the islands.
Sharks get a bad rap, especially white sharks, so Shark Stewards decided to celebrate sharks as we fight to protect threatened species of sharks with Sharktober films, talks and events in the Bay Area.
One third of open ocean sharks are threatened with extinction. Many large shark populations have been fished and finned down to the danger point. Once killed as bycatch primarily on lines set for tuna or swordfish, sharks are increasingly targeted for their fins.
Scientists have demonstrated that sharks play a vital role for a healthy ocean ecosystem. As apex predators, sharks are critical for the health and the balance of the Bay and ocean ecosystems. Removing apex predators can have a negative “cascade effect” causing a domino-like effect unbalancing the health and diversity of the ecosystem. The ocean needs sharks. With thousands of starving seals and sea lions on the coast, this particular shark is doing its job evolved over millions of years.
As a surfer and open water swimmer, I respect sharks. We must respect these awesome predators, and we can co-exist with them using common sense and technology, but we need not malign them.
This Sharktober, Bay Area ocean lovers are celebrating the ocean’s diversity of life including sharks, We can all do our part to help protect all marine life in the Sanctuary and beyond, and we can start with sharks. Join Shark Stewards and our partners, the California Academy of Sciences, The Gulf of the Farallones National marine Sanctuary, the San Francisco Ocean Film Festival, Patagonia for events, talks, films celebrating sharks and all ocean life.
Learn more at SharkStewards.org.