No more chumming for great white sharks


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It’s been a popular sport for thrill-seeking divers and even photo-snapping tourists here and abroad. Toss chunks of fish and blood in the water and wait for great whites to show up. But it will no longer be permitted around the Farallon Islands off San Francisco under a new management plan for three marine sanctuaries off Central California.

Such chumming was abolished years ago off Año Nuevo State Natural Reserve just south of San Francisco, a place frequented by the sharks and marine mammals of various kinds. Beside the seals and sea lions, surfers also take to these waters. Understandably they objected to the practice of teaching white sharks to associate humans with blood and chunks of fish in the water. These waters, after all, are known as the ‘Bloody Triangle’ or ‘Red Triangle’ for the concentrations of humans and white sharks that have brought about a legacy of shark attacks. The triangle roughly covers the waters from Santa Cruz to Bodega Bay and reaching offshore to the Farallones.


Under the extensive new rules, federal officials also forbid attracting seabirds by tossing food in the water, as well as other kinds of sea life. Tour boats will have to remain a respectful 55 yards away when white sharks feed on elephant seas, as they go there to do. That’ll make it harder to get a close-up shot, but managers say that whites have been seen abandoning a kill when boats venture too close.

Some researchers and others have used seal-shaped decoys that lie passively on the water’s surface to attract sharks. Once the new regulations go into effect in mid-March, such decoys would only be allowed by special permit.

-- Kenneth R. Weiss