SUPPORT THIS INDEPENDENT JOURNALISM
The article you’re about to read is from our reporters doing their important work — investigating, researching, and writing their stories. We want to provide informative and inspirational stories that connect you to the people, issues and opportunities within our community. Journalism requires lots of resources. Today, our business model has been interrupted by the pandemic; the vast majority of our advertisers’ businesses have been impacted. That’s why the DP Times is now turning to you for financial support. Learn more about our new Insider’s program here. Thank you.
Robert Capone, Dana Point
I am an ocean swimmer who has lived in Dana Point for around 30 years. I was a junior lifeguard in San Clemente. Each summer, I rejoice to see the children return to the surf in the same ocean safety program up and down the Southern California coast. Now, however, I view this with some trepidation. I have some real concerns about my own safety and that of the youth when swimming in the sea.
The fear is founded on recent beach closures, shark sightings and fatal attacks. This last Memorial Day weekend a swimmer was bitten by a shark or sea lion and bled heavily before being rescued by a lifeguard patrol boat in Newport. Corona del Mar State Beach was subsequently closed at the shoreline. Seal Beach was closed at times during the month of October last year and March this year. Juvenile great whites have been observed in the shallows and a full grown shark was just recently videoed breaching near shore. Sadly, we remember David Martin. David was training for a triathlon 150 meters offshore in Solana Beach when witnesses saw him lifted from the water and dragged under. Both legs bitten, he bled to death.
More seals inevitably mean more sharks. This year, I have seen things never observed before; large groups of seals swimming offshore and new rookeries onshore. I understand the cuddle factor surrounding seals and appreciate the raw power of the shark. Yes, there is a certain nostalgic altruism of allowing nature to return to its former state. However, the well-being of my fellow human beings helps me see this as a dangerous abstraction. We are part of the Southern California coastal habitat.
Warm clear water and golden sandy beaches are the nexus for resident recreation and a tourism economy. Worldwide, there are very few places that offer such an opportunity for swimming, surfing and sunbathing. Should shark attacks and beach closures continue, tourists will take their dollars elsewhere and the youth will be deprived of a vital place for play.
Human lives matter, too. The California Legislature passed the Marine Life Protection Act in 1999. Recently, The Department of Fish and Wildlife (formerly Fish and Game) established marine protection zones. I propose the creation of human protection zones. The beaches from Point Conception south should not be places where people need to risk their lives to go swimming, surfing or wading. The coastline from Point Conception to the Mexican border is less than one-tenth of the distance between Point Conception and the Canadian border. Southern California beaches feature the warm water that make swimming and wading a viable recreational pursuit. Currently, seals and sharks are protected. A portion of the seal population in Southern California could be relocated thereby reestablishing a healthy equilibrium. If there are fewer seals there will be fewer great white sharks.
Who do we hold accountable the next time a human life becomes fish food? And who will that human life belong to; a stranger, a friend, a big brother or little sister?