A man was rescued by the coast guard on Tuesday after he was attacked by a shark near the Farallon Islands, an area off the San Francisco coast infamous for its shark infested waters. He was immediately evacuated from the area and transported to Stanford hospital emergency room to treat bites to his arm.
Police on Wednesday said it appears a 17-foot great white shark bit the man.
Swimming near the Farallon Islands is not recommended for any regular person, but the man bitten was actually looking for sharks. Ron Elliott is a commercial diver and documentary filmmaker who is featured in a new film called “Near Miss” about his encounter with a great white shark off the Farallones last year.
For Elliott, this attack is part of a lifetime of documenting sharks in the area. Over a 15-year span, Elliott has had more than 400 encounters with sharks at the Farrallon Islands without the protection of a cage, according to Diving Almanac.
Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary spokeswoman Mary Jane Schramm said that Elliott is a legend in the area, and is certain that he was being smart while filming the sharks. But even being on your best behavior doesn’t mean you’re immune from a shark confrontation.
“Every time a human goes swimming around here or goes surfing off Ocean Beach they are in a shark’s habitat during the fall months,” said Schramm. “So we know Ron. We know he’s not trying to make the sharks do anything except be themselves, essentially, and he’s in a good position. He’s extremely passive in his cinematography approach. So he’s not a person who’s disrupting their behavior.”
Elliott has been the subject of at least three documentaries in recent years. One by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows him combining his two great passions: diving and taking pictures of sea life.
His injuries don’t appear to be serious, as he was seen walking from the rescue helicopter into the emergency room.
The Farralon Islands are known as the epicenter of California’s Red Triangle, a hotbed of great white shark activity. It’s estimated that nearly 40 percent of all great white shark attacks in the United States happen in this region, and 11 percent of total shark attacks in the world.
The Red Triangle spans out just past the Farralon Islands, a National Wildlife Refuge sitting 30 miles into the Pacific Ocean from the Golden Gate Bridge. Sharks are known to frequent areas surrounding the islands, with some spending up to 8 months out of the year living in the area.
The area is a favorite for great white shark due to its dense populations of marine mammals, the shark’s favorite food group. When the Marine Mammal Act of 1972 ended the slaughter of seals, marine biologists have noticed an increase in Red Triangle shark populations, due to the protected all-you-can-eat buffet of marine mammals in the area. The predators have been protected in California waters ever since 1994.