Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Shark attack off Cambria

Kathe Tanner, our faithful local reporter, covered the latest shark attack story for The Cambrian:

It was a dramatic weekend for kayakers in waters off Cambria: A Paso Robles fisherman escaped an attack by a great white shark Saturday, although his kayak didn’t, and another Paso Robles kayaker was plucked from the 51-degree-water Sunday in time to save his life.
Joey Nocchi, 30, of Paso Robles, had the big-fish tale to tell, after his kayak was upended and bitten by a great white shark.
Nocchi and friends James Byon of Paso Robles and Matt Kerschke of Los Osos were fishing for rockfish at 1:30 p.m. Saturday near Leffingwell Landing off Moonstone Beach.
“We’d just about limited out on rock cod, and Matt caught two halibut,” Nocchi said. “We were cruising along together and talking.”
He was reaching for his knife when “I got hit from underneath and started coming up out of the water. My buddies said I came out of the water 4 to 5 feet — it flipped me over the side. The shark rolled the whole kayak over, rolled me out of it, and he went over the top of it. He swam across me — his tail touched me.” His friends estimated the shark was 12 feet to 14 feet long.
Nocchi’s buddies told him “the shark came all the way out of the water, jaws open, extra eyelids closed like they do when they’re making a kill strike.
“I swam back as fast as I could and got back on the back of the kayak. I didn’t even think to turn it back over.”
Kershke told him, “The shark knows it made a mistake. You’ll have to get off, turn the kayak over, and get back in. I’m going to go get the paddle, and I want you in the kayak when I get back.”
Nocchi said, “I did, and I got back to shore as fast as I could, even though the kayak was taking on a bunch of water from the bite. The bite looks to be around 20 inches long, more than 22 inches wide.”
Nocchi said he was glad he did not fish alone, and added he’d likely stay out of the ocean for a while. “I’ll be bass fishing for a while, probably from the shore.”
Signs were posted along Moonstone Beach warning beach goers about the shark attack. ##

Locals and scientists have speculated as to whether the great white shark population will increase in our area, following the increase in elephant seals, one of their prey. Local otter researchers have documented increased shark attacks on otters, as much as a 30 percent increase in the past year.

An increase in great white sharks is not a bad thing. The presence of top predators is important to the health and resilience of the entire ecosystem. That's been established in other places: otters in Monterey Bay, wolves in Yellowstone. More sharks means that the whole system is functioning well.

That said, humans can turn into prey or collateral damage, like the sea otters. It's definitely worth considering is you are an ocean sports person.

You don't see me out there. I can see what I want from the shore.

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