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Experts Talk Of Shark Behavior After Fatal Shark Attack In California

Aired August 22, 2003 - 19:39   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Tuesday's fatal shark attack off San Luis Obispo was the first in California since 1994. Debra Franzman was attacked by a great white as she swam near a group of seals. And even though shark experts will tell you how often shark hype often gets out of hand, this time, some of the most knowledgable people are amoung those voicing concerns.
This marine biologist Michael Domeier is one of those people. He's with us from San Diego tonight. Michael, good evening. Thanks for being with us.

MICHAEL DOMEIER, MARINE BIOLOGIST: Good evening, Daryn. Thanks for having me.

KAGAN: As I understand it, you have sighted what you think is yet another great white shark close to the San Onofre nuclear power plant just a little bit north of where you are in San Diego?

DOMEIER: Yes, which ordinarily would not be unusual. But it's been there for quite some time now. I was actually first contacted by a major fox from Camp Pendleton. He's a helicopter pilot there. And he knew that we studied sharks at Flagler (ph) Institute of Enviornmental Research in Oceanside so he contacted me and after he sent me some pictures and I said yes, that is, in fact a great white shark. But didn't think much of it, because they do live in California.

The unusual thing is this individual has remained in that area for about three weeks now. And it is very close to some very popular surfing beaches. So after the incident in San Luis Obisbo, I thought perhaps, without trying to sensationalize anything, we should let the public know and let people decide on their own whether they really want to surf in those places.

KAGAN: Well, yes, I have family members who surf off the coast of San Diego. Do I need to get on the phone and call my brother and say, stay out of the water? Or is it not that serious?

DOMEIER: I don't know how serious it is, Daryn. Actually, I'm a surfer and I think that I would choose not to surf there right now. Only because this shark has been sighted repeatedly about 100 to 200 yards off shore and it's very close to two spots, one called Old Man's and one called Trussle's and it's rare to have a great white shark attack. I don't know why this shark is staying in the area. There's not a lot of seals. It's an unusual circumstance. KAGAN: All right, let's put this in perspective. First of all, do sharks find us tasty? Are they looking to go take us out for dinner or take us in for dinner if you know what I mean? Or take us in for dinner?

DOMEIER: I think that most people would agree that it's cases of mistaken identity. Swimmers in the water and surfers have a silhouette that looks very much like a seal, and the sharks are down below when they're hunting, looking up at a silhouette and so they come up and it looks enough like a seal for them to take a bite.

And the mode of hunting that they are using is they come and bite and back off and let the they prey bleed to death. And that's normally what happens. After one bite, sometimes two on a person, especially if they're wearing a wetsuit, they realize it's not what they thought it was and they go way. It's too late for the victim.

KAGAN: And the woman who was killed was swimming among seals, wearing fins and a wet suit. And just real quickly, when something comes up like this don't you get concerned for the sharks? I mean, they have survived 10's of thousands of years and yet these hype stores come up to make them fair game.

DOMEIER: I don't think that it makes them fair game, particularly in California, they're protected now by state law. They're safe and, no -- they are very unusual to be sighted. Though in the area of San Luis Obispo, it's more of a great white shark area than San Diego County. There's a place called Ano Nuevo not too far away and also right near the Hearst Castle there's an elephant seal hall so it's more likely to have great white sharks in that area.

KAGAN: Well, Michael Domeier, we thank you for that information on sharks. We wish you good surfing, but not new San Onofre. Appreciate the information. Thank you for that

DOMEIER: Thank you

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