Posted by: carlsafina | Friday, July 6 07

Welcome to the Hotel Californshark – Day Three

The day dawned on a calm and overcast morning, my favorite sea weather, easier on the eyes than a million shards of sunlight shining like broken glass up from the water.

We’ve moved to a spot about eight miles southeast of Catalina. Where we fish is pre-determined by a sampling regime, not necessarily because we’re looking for the best spot to catch the most. So our catch rate varies.

The air was cool, in the 60s as we made the morning set. I baited about half the hooks and handed them to the clipper-person. Someone put a lineup of “late” Beatles classics in the PA system. All you need is love, 200 hooks, and several tubs of thawed mackerel, and the work goes smooth.

We caught a few sharks in the morning but the afternoon set was our most active yet, with a baker’s dozen comprised of Blue Sharks and one Mako. I remain impressed by the crew’s skill in sliding sharks into the cradle and then gaining control by grabbing them just behind the head.

Mako by the head

It’s a bit hair-raising, and the phrase “If he hollers, let ‘im go!” popped into my head. The males are particularly rambunctious—a bad personality trait when combined with several rows of daggers in a vice. And while the Blues often blink to protect their own eyes when being bossed around, the Makos often swivel their eyes to watch who’s doing what. So far I haven’t seen a shark attempt to defend itself orally, but of course the risk exists; one bite would be too many.

Mako watching Erick’s hand

The afternoon’s Mako, a sleek nearly-five-footer, had something I have never seen before, or even heard of: wounds from a Humboldt Squid. The Mako’s sides carried marks from rows of suckers, and slashes seemingly from the squid’s beak!

Humboldt squid wounds

Suzie Kohin says such wounds just started showing up here for the first time last year. The big squid, which can weigh 75 pounds, have been expanding their range northward, invading California waters as they’ve warmed in recent years. Even in their more traditional range, the squid are more abundant because the fish that prey on them as juveniles—such as sharks and tunas—are overfished.

Who attacked whom? Dunno. The squid are notoriously aggressive—but so is the Mako, which regularly eats squid. My guess is the Mako attacked, and the squid defended itself. Either way, the encounter was violent, with intent to kill—like many in the ocean.

— Carl Safina


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