Each year from September to December, great white sharks migrate along the coast of the Bay Area to the Greater Farallon Islands. Located off the northern and central California coast, the Farallones are a national marine sanctuary with a public visitor center in Crissy Field in the Presidio. To honor the return of these apex predators to San Francisco, the USF community gathered for Sharktober film night last Wednesday.
“Sharktober is a wonderful convergence of scientists, surfers, artists, educators, and of course, the ocean,” said ocean activist Maria Villarroel. She is an active volunteer within the Shark Steward Foundation, which was founded by adjunct Professor David McGuire. Villarroel added, “The ocean brings us all together,”
After a presentation from adjunct Professor McGuire, the audience dove into bags of popcorn and discovered the Farallones in the award winning documentary titled “Blue Serengeti.” The cinematography and below surface footage of the creatures in “Blue Serengeti” highlighted the beauty of sharks in their natural environment. The award winning film changed the perspective from the sensationalized impact the 1975 box office hit “Jaws” had on public perception of sharks.
McGuire said the “Jaws” film, which featured a shark that attacked and ate residents of a vacation town, has done a lot of scarring. The film created a nationwide attitude of fear after its release. McGuire said human-shark encounters are very rare. “In 2016 more people died because of selfies than of sharks,” he said.
“I love the ocean and I’ve worked on trade and education to restore ocean health in the U.S., but most of the ocean is highly unregulated and the killing of sharks for shark fin trade has detrimental effects to the marines ecosystem,” said McGuire.
The reason for shark fin trade? Shark fin soup, a traditional Asian delicacy. Thanks to his research and advocacy, in 2016 McGuire was successful in getting legislation passed in California that bans the sale and possession of shark fins. Nine other states have since followed, but the dish is still widely served.
Junior Derek Nelson, an environmental studies major, is an intern for the Sharks Stewards Foundation. “I got involved because I love the ocean. I surf up and down the coast and see the ocean from a very close lense, and I have so much respect for everything that lives within its depths”
Nelson’s passion for the ocean has landed him the opportunity to assist McGuire in tagging sharks, a method of tracking the sharks that migrate through the Bay Area. Tagging allows scientists to collect data without interfering with shark migration patterns.
Gretchen Coffman, a professor in the department of environmental science said, “We live right here on the bay. If you go up to Lone Mountain, you can see the Farallon Islands 28 miles offshore on a nice day. All you have to do is go down to the beach so get out there and enjoy. [Students should] take an environmental science for non-majors class to learn about the beauty of the ocean and why we need to protect it.”
USF students can help the mission of the Shark Stewards by visiting their website to get involved with the volunteer program.