A citizen science project to monitor sevengill sharks in San Diego

by Michael Bear

MikeyMichael Bear is  Science Diving Editor for California Diver Magazine and  currently contributor to Marine Science Today with over a 1000 cold-water dives, an AAUS (American Academy of Underwater Sciences) Scientific Diver and  founder of Sevengill Shark Sightings.org. He  lives and work  in San Diego.

 

I am not a professional shark researcher–just an experienced San Diego diver who has been diving in the San Diego area since 2000. In October of 2008, I began hearing reports of encounters between local San Diego divers and Sevengill sharks, (Notorynchus cepedianus).   At the time, I thought this a bit unusual, since this was the first I had heard of these encounters in nearly a decade of regular diving in the San Diego area and monitoring local Internet dive boards. Between 2000 and 2006, almost no encounters were reported. But in 2008, that all changed and they began appearing on  the dive boards and  lists, one here, two there, five there,  slowing increasing until it was obvious that something was happening–exactly what was not clear–only that more and more encounters were being reported by divers.

Then, in the summer of 2009, I had my own memorable encounter with a Sevengill.   I was diving off of Point La Jolla when a large seven footer glided majestically between me and my dive buddy, who was no more than two meters away from me.   To say we were startled would be an understatement.   It was this incident, along with the increase in reports by other divers, caused me to set up a website  later that same year,  allowing San Diego divers to log and document their encounters with this species, as a sort of  personal citizen science project, because  no local marine institution, including Scripps Institution of Oceanography and NOAA SW Fisheries in La Jolla, had ever done any baseline studies locally prior to this point–I know, because we checked.