Bumped by a shark
Recently, commercial fishermen witnessed a medium-sized great white shark attack on a harbor seal, on the remote windward side of Santa Catalina Island. On Sunday a woman kayaking off West Cove near the island's isthmus claimed to have been bumped off her kayak by a large shark.
"My first thought was, `Wow, was that a whale?"' Bettina Pereira told KCAL news. "I couldn't believe it and all of a sudden when I seen the fin I realized this is not a whale -- this is a shark. By the time I thought that ... the shark was already cruising under me and lifting the kayak up with its body, and I landed out of the kayak right onto the shark's body."
Nearby boaters drove to the rescue, pulled Pereira aboard and helped her to shore. Her son told her husband she'd been attacked by a shark.
1) Avalon needs news such as this like it needs another helicopter crash or wildfire.
2) This was no shark attack and it cannot be confirmed whether whatever it was that capsized Pereira's boat was in fact a shark, though witnesses watching from afar claimed on various websites that its swirling tail looked like that of a shark. If it were an attack by a large great white, there'd be a damaged kayak and perhaps a severely damaged or dead body. This appears to have been a simple bump, perhaps by a curious predator, which proceeded to move on.
3) There are sharks around Catalina, just as there are sharks along the mainland coast. Thankfully, they are not after human blood and very rarely spill it. More people are entering island waters as the busy season kicks in, so encounters with ocean critters can be expected.
4) Unfortunately, news accounts can generate hysteria, especially when they're false and sensational. KNX, for example, ran a blurb on its website stating, "There have been reports of several Great White attacks up and down the coast, from Mexico to San Diego, in the past couple of months. In the San Diego attack, a swimmer was killed."
There have been four attacks--three off Mexico, two of them fatal; all presumed to have involved bull sharks--and one confirmed fatal attack on a swimmer, by a white shark, off Solana Beach in San Diego County. To implicate great whites in all of the attacks is not only irresponsible, but it falsely represents the species as a savage killer.
Finally, Catalina remains reasonably safe; as safe as mainland coastal waters. And swimming, diving or kayaking there is probably safer than a helicopter ride, and definitely safer than driving on mainland streets and freeways.
But please exercise caution if you go--and don't play with matches.
Archive photo of great white shark by Tyson Rininger / AP