Not a shark?

Linda King took this photo of the sunset and noticed what she thought might be a shark in the lower left corner.

Nothing captures the beauty of Brookings Harbor like an orange and yellow-hued sunset juxtaposed against the majestic beauty of redwood trees. Facebook-worthy, even.  

At least that’s what Grant’s Pass resident Linda King thought when she posted pictures on Tuesday from her last night’s stay at Beachfront RV Park in Brookings Harbor. Then the comments started to roll in.

“Hey, you got a shark there!” said one of her friends.

So King looked closer, and started to wonder if her friends were right. She also started to worry, prompting her to contact the Curry Coastal Pilot to warn others.

“I got to thinking, there are lots of people out there surfing and maybe I should say something,” said King. “And, maybe send the photo so it can be examined.”

Taylor Chapple, assistant professor at the Marine, Fishing and Wildlife Department at Oregon State University, encourages people to explore the sharks of Northern California and Oregon - all 15 species of them. So, was it a shark?

“That’s not a shark,” he said. “If it were a shark, we would see the caudal fin poking out of the water.”

The caudal fin might be described - to a layperson anyway - as the top pointy part of what appears to be a shark’s tail. The caudal fin is horizontal to, and sometimes taller than the shark’s midsection fin. So both would appear at the surface.

Chapple was quick to point out, however, that what was probably a bird diving for prey was an honest mistake.

“If you are an ocean user, chances are you’ve been around sharks in the water,” he said.

The most common type, at least in these parts, is the Blue Shark. It’s possibly one of the prettiest species due to its dark, indigo blue color. However, it’s unlikely a beachgoer would see one because they prefer deep, cool waters. Chapple said it’s more likely to run into a Sevengill shark because they like bays and estuaries, such as those found at Humboldt Bay where sightings have been recorded.

While it’s true Sevengill sharks can bite, they do so only when provoked, and even then it’s rare. As are most shark attacks, according to Chapple.

“Sharks are not mindless killers,” he said. “They have unique, important roles and we need to change the narrative from fear to appreciation. They’ve been around for 40 millions years, they are good at what they do, and humans aren’t on the menu.”

Chapple has traveled all over the world studying and tracking sharks, and has taken a special interest in white sharks. In 2019, he joined Oregon State University, where his focus is more locally-based. Chapple said if you see a shark (mistake or not), he would like to hear about it. Sightings can be reported to this Shark Sighting Page on the Oregon State University website. Pictures, like the one used for this article, are helpful.

Jaws: Much of popular media puts a spin on sharks that hasn’t changed much...Even shark week is still fear based.

Not mindess killers. They have unique, important roles. Need to change the narrative to appreciation.

Quite rare to be attacked by a shark. Statistics don’t even reflect what perceptions may be about shark attacks. Florida, Black tip and spinner sharks - may brush against someone, creating small cuts and wounds. Logged as a shark attack.

I am  an Assistant Professor at Oregon State University working to increase our understanding and appreciation of sharks on local and global scales. My background is in population modeling with application to  movements, energetics and behavior of highly mobile species, notably the white shark. I am focused on shifting the current mantra from fear and apprehension of sharks to one of awe and inspiration- there is more to sharks than just pointy teeth. I have worked all over the planet engaging people, through science, television, magazines and technology, to think differently about the predators in their backyard.

I need your help! Part of my research here at Oregon State University is understanding the movements, behaviors and distributions of sharks along our coast. If you see a shark, catch a shark or find a stranded shark please fill out the Shark Sighting Page with any information, pictures or comments. The more information you include the more we all learn about these amazing predators off our coast.

South Beach is a locals beach just south of Crescent City Harbor where Highway 101 rolls into town. It’s a wide sandy beach that is partially protected from the west by the harbor jetties. Winter storms have thrown large drift logs onto the back of the beach. When conditions are right, local surfers will ride waves as they wrap around the harbor. South Beach Outfitters is next to the beach and they rent boards and offer surfing advice. Stand-up paddleboarding is also popular at South Beach and on the


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