That experience, diving with a hundred sharks, and then
discovering the impacts and the results of shark finning lead me to found my
non profit- now Shark Stewards, and become active in shark protection and shark
filming. That passion has lead to developing education programs, producing
shark documentaries and conducting shark outreach events like Sharktober to
help sound the alarm for sharks. Since 2003 we produced several shark
conservation documentaries, starting with Sharks Stewards of the Reef
that was translated into Chinese and played on Chinese Public Television. The
best part of the entire experience is shark diving and taking photographs.
Since the first south pacific expedition I’ve filmed sharks on long lines in
Costa Rica, white sharks in Mexico and Sevengill sharks in the San Francisco
Bay. In the course of this I have even helped develop guidelines for shark ecotourism.
I am frequently asked what my favorite shark is. It’s kind of a Sophie’s choice. Sharks are so diverse and so unique it is hard to choose which I love most or prefer to dive with. Hammerhead sharks are shy and gentle. White sharks are powerful and graceful. Sevengill sharks are sly and enigmatic. However, one doesn’t have to travel far or even enter the water to see sharks in the wild. One species close to my home and my heart is the Leopard shark, Triakis semifasciatus. Leopard sharks are one of the most common sharks along the coast of California. These are beautiful sharks with a bronze colored skin patterned with black ovals- the spots of our Ocean Leopard These beautiful sharks live along the eastern margin of the Pacific from British Columbia down to Mexico. As the largest estuary on the west coast, San Francisco is one of the more important locations for Leopards to give birth and feed. Leopard sharks live in shallow waters of bays and estuaries and occasionally patrol the kelp forest, usually staying near the bottom. Another important local estuary is the Elk Horn Slough off Moss Landing.
These sharks which grow to six feet long prefer shallow waters although they have been found as deep as 300 feet. During the early summer months, females enter the shallows to give birth to baby sharks also called pups. In the Bay they are also often found foraging in shallow eelgrass beds. In the shallows of parts of the San Francisco Bay Leopards are commonly seen foraging in waters so shallow that their dorsal fins and tails penetrate the surface.
Anglers commonly take these sharks off the coastline and in the Bay. The California Fish and Wildlife Department has set a limit of 3 sharks per day with a minimum length of 36 inches. They are said to be a good eating fish, although tests of flesh indicate they are high enough in mercury to carry potential health risks. I dive with sharks and don’t eat them, and encourage others to release them and enter the information in our Shark Watch database. This information tells us movement patterns and where the different sharks are distributed over time and space, so we can learn more about these incredible creatures.