Should I Get a Bigger Boat? Shark Attacks on Boats, People, Dogs and Seals

Events like this make me feel lucky to live in California.

This August 8 lecture at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum with shark legend Ralph S. Collier  and Peter Howorth promises to be fascinating!

Should I Get a Bigger Boat?

Shark Attacks on Boats, People, Dogs, and Seals

by Ralph S. Collier  (President, Shark Research Committee)

and Peter Howorth (Director, Santa Barbara Marine Mammal Center)

 Where: Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, 113 Harbor Way, Santa Barbara, California

When: Friday, August 8, 2014 • 7:00pm

Cost: $15 (SBMM and Shark Research Committee members), $20 (non-members)

To Register: Go to or call (805) 962-8404 x115

What should you do if a shark takes a fancy to your boat?  Yes, this really does happen––boats have been attacked by sharks.  Find out why this happens and much more as Ralph S. Collier, the west coast’s leading authority on shark attacks, explores various theories on why sharks attack everything from surfboards to boats, and from crab trap floats to people.  Learn what makes a shark tick and why it is such a supremely well-adapted predator.  Discover from Peter Howorth how attacks on marine mammals can serve as canaries in the coal mines, warning people of shark hazards, and what is being done about this.

If you are in the Santa Barbara area on August 8, 2014 please stop by. Directions to the Museum are available on the SBMM web site when you order tickets. After you order tickets please notify the SRC so we can place you on our Members list for this event. For confirmation of SRC Membership, and to obtain the $5.00 discount per ticket, please print out and bring this email. Seating is limited so order your tickets today. Thank you and we look forward to seeing you August 8th at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum.


Day 277 3/30/14: The Coolest Shark Site…EVER…..

great-white-shark-wallpapers_35944_852x480The ocean is oddly silent and still, then a white shark bursts out of the water, nearly sending a startled kayaker into the water. A surfer watches a black dorsal fin slice the surface and disappear. Headless seals wash up on the beach. These are just some of the thrilling dispatches from Pacific Coast Shark News, my favorite feature of Ralph Collier’s Shark Research Committee website. I have learned a tremendous amount about shark behavior and intelligence just from reading Pacific Coast Shark News. But keeping detailed and accurate records of shark activity along the Pacific Coast is only a small part of SRC’s very important work. They are currently working on a pioneering non-invasive DNA project that if funded could revolutionize shark conservation. The identification and migration patterns of specific shark populations through DNA, could help researchers predict the chances of future attacks offering an alternative to the barbaric retaliatory slaughter of sharks, like the “cull” happening in Australia right now.

For a $20 donation, you will receive the fascinating SRC Quarterly e-mail newsletter and for $70, you will receive Ralph Collier’s utterly riveting, lavishly illustrated book Shark Attacks of Twentieth Century.

Please consider making a donation of any amount, even $10–to help SRC continue its essential conservation and education efforts.

Day 153 11/25/13: Fintastic Holiday Gift Guide

Here are 6 antidotes to Black Friday mall madness:

1. This $75 pewter shark head staple remover  adds a certain savage gravitas to a desktop.

2. Become part of the fight to save sharks by joining The Shark Research Committee. A $70 membership fee entitles the lucky recipient to the SRC Quarterly newsletter and a signed copy of the lavishly illustrated and utterly engrossing book Shark Attacks of The Twentieth Century by Ralph Collier.

3. For the pint-sized naturalist: L.L. Bean’s great white sleeping bag looks awfully cozy!

4. I don’t know about you, but I really need this 4-D transparent white shark anatomy model with its 20 removable organs and body parts.

5. Shark socks.

6. Pangea Seed blends art with activism collaborating with artists & scientists to raise awareness about sharks and other marine life in peril. The proceeds from Pangea Seed’s  Art prints, sustainable clothingImage, shark pendants & other cool stuff go directly to their conservation efforts.

Day 63: 8/27/13: “A Fin in a Waste of Waters”

Today’s title is  a recurring line  from Virginia Woolf’s novel “The Waves.”

That line mesmerized me when I wrote a paper on “The Waves”  for my Woolf seminar in graduate school.  I love the desolation of it–” a waste of waters,” and though I’ve not returned to that book in many years, it persists in my consciousness, a potent symbol, a perfect fragment.

However, High modernism is not the only source for memorable reminders of the power of the dorsal fin.

On September 25th, Ralph Collier, founder of  Shark Research Committee and author of the fascinating and disturbing book “Shark Attacks of the Twentieth Century”  will be my guest lecturer at Glendale College. I am a proud member of the Shark Research Committee and frequent reader of Pacific Coast Shark News,   Collier’s archives of detailed eyewitness descriptions of shark encounters (sightings, breachings,  bumped surfboards,  headless seals washed up on the beach or more rarely, full-fledged attacks) from California to Washington.

I could spend days scrolling through these accounts–which are both scientific and poetic, eerie and beautiful. A man diving near Refugio in Santa Barbara County  takes sanctuary in the kelp canopy after a 12-foot great white steals a freshly killed lingcod from his hand.  Two miles west of Refugio, a shark, “possibly a great white,” lifts a kayaker out of the water.  On a cloudless day in Big Sur, a two-foot high dorsal fin surfaces then disappears.

Phrases like “glassy calm” and “crescent-shaped bite” dazzle and terrify. Detailed, crime report-style identifications:  “blunt nose, 12-14 feet in length, grayish black” alternate with the ephemeral, and elusive:   “the shadow of the body was about 15-feet in length.”

These encounters, these observations are usually over in seconds.

The shark moves lazily or with the precision and speed of a torpedo, over the reef, out to sea. Or simply sinks and disappears.

Français : Aileron de requin. English : Shark ...

Français : Aileron de requin. English : Shark dorsal fin. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Day 14: 7/9/2013: Sharks in Your Lipstick


Today I hopped around the internet trying to figure out what cosmetic companies still use shark-based squalene in their cosmetics. Squalene comes from the livers of deep water species like the strangely beautiful green-eyed gulper shark (above) and is used as an emollient in lipsticks and lotions.  Squalene also occurs naturally in olives. But since the shark-based version requires a shorter processing time and produces a higher yield than theplant-based version, many companies prefer shark liver ingredients to the less brutal alternative.

Back in 2008, L’Oreal and Unilever, and Estee Lauder vowed to ditch the shark liver oil and use plant-based substitutes. Forgive me for doubting the word of large corporations that also conduct animal testing, but I wonder if the squalene in Kiehl’s #1 Lip Balm is shark or not. (Kiehl’s was bought by L’Oreal in 2000).

These morally murky corporate takeovers are a good reason to stick to cosmetic and personal care products made by companies like Lush who recently partnered with SharkSavers even selling a limited edition Shark Fin Soap.

Chantecaille will donate  5% of sales of their Save the Sharks Palette of Eye & Cheek shades to the BLOOM Association which fights the  unregulated shark fin trade.

Today’s action: I signed a petition to ban gill nets, arranged a guest lecture featuring legendary shark expert Ralph Collier at Glendale College, and designed an assignment that asks students to track down shark ingredients in cosmetics, and even (???) energy drinks.