Here's that shark pen the Monterey Bay Aquarium floats off the coast of Paradise Cove each year. (That's the aquarium's trawler in the other photo.) Hard to see from shore but, thanks to waterman Vic Calandra's close encounter last week, I'm not all that keen on kayaking out for a better shot.
Aquarium scientists have been coming here for seven years now, chumming our offshore waters in search of great white sharks. Some they tag and release for future study, others they capture and put in the pen. (Some are 'donations' caught by local fishing boats.) The broader goal is information about the predators who, thanks to overfishing, are endangered. The more immediate task, however, is to capture a great white that can survive captivity in the aquarium's wildly popular and lucrative exhibit.
Opinions are - surprise! - sharply divided. Some locals are angry, sure the shark hunt draws the great whites closer to shore. Others object on moral grounds. At least one stressed-out shark died after capture. Another had to be released from the aquarium when it bloodied its snout by slamming itself against the glass in repeated escape attempts. But experienced surfers and lifeguards, while not eager for a one-on-one shark encounter, accept them as part of the natural order. Sharks are out there, they say, with or without the Monterey experiment.
That's something the cast and crew of a location shoot for "Shark Swarm", a made-for-cable scare fest on location here at the Cove last week, learned firsthand. (Plot: An evil developer wrests control of a beautiful beach from locals by poisoning the fish and putting the fishermen out of business. Sharks are pissed. Much mayhem follows.) Production was shut down for a bit when a mako shark took a spin around the pier.
Work on "Shark Swarm," a cable television movie starring Armand Assante, John Schneider and Daryl Hannah, came to a halt at about 2 p.m. because one of Paradise Cove's lifeguards saw a shark.
"The stunt guys were going into the water off a pier for a shot when the lifeguards spotted a 6-foot Mako shark," said propmaster George Hobbs.
Hobbs then joked to an actor that "if a real shark bites you, it will be the best shot in the movie."
Henry Blunt, a lifeguard for the privately owned cove north of Malibu, said, "It wasn't such a big deal but by protocol we have to call everyone out of the water. The shark looked around a couple of times and then took off and hasn't been seen since."
Cable subscribers should be so lucky.
* Not a glass window in the shark tank - it's acrylic.
* The sharks that died were captured by fishing boats and could not be saved.
* The shark that injured its snout (by bumping, not slamming) against the tank was released because it had grown so large.
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