Exploring our Sanctuary at the Gulf of the Farallones is a gift of Nature. Like many gifts, sometimes you don’t quite get what you ask for. In this case, as our vessel the Silver Fox pulled into Fisherman’s Cove, we were greeted by the usual welcoming committee of cavorting California sea lions, but also by the island flies. These little pests live on the rich guano left by the numerous nesting birds on the island, and although a nuisance, that’s nature!
Using the Trident ROV we are documenting the rich invertebrates and pinnipeds in the California marine protected areas as part of Shark Steward’s MPA Watch and our National Geographic Open Explorer project. Fishermen’s Cove, then moved to Mirounga Bay aka “Shark Alley.” Our NOAA permit allows us to put out seal shaped decoys equipped with cameras, but today the Trident made the day. A lovely male white shark swept by the motionless Trident in two meters of water. Uninterested in the decoys, he showed a casual interest in the ROV and made several curious passes. Later, a female gave the ROV a glance, doing a casual sweep by nearly brushing the drone. Without a tag, the many distinct scars and markings will enter these recognizable sharks into the Block Lab’s database in the Tagging of Pelagic Predators Program at the Hopkins Marine Station. Data like this will help us better understand these magnificent predators and help protect them, as well as their prey.
We also saw massive Mola molas, entered 8 humpbacks into the database and experienced an exciting day on the Gulf of the Farallones. These public trips inspire support for our National Marine Sanctuary, and the direct benefits of laws like the Endangered Species Act which brought back brown pelicans, grey whales and Northern Elephant Seals back from the brink of extinction.
Exploring our Sanctuary in the Gulf of the Farallones is a gift of Nature and I am so grateful to share the experience first hand on our tours and secondhand through Open Explore. The abundant and rich marine life off our coastline is also a gift of the leaders who first protected the marine ecosystem and species under the Sanctuary system and state marine protection network. Credit also goes to the people who manage the marine resources, and the general public who love it. Now, more than ever, we need to support our Sanctuaries and marine protected areas. Learn how at Sharkstewards.org
Adapted from Open Explore Blog- Unsettled Waters: Expeditions to the Devil’s Teeth