Marine Life Identification

Mysteries of the Great White Shark

The largest toothed-shark, the great white shark, is one of the least understood animals in California’s coastal waters. Even though this shark has been intensely studied for decades, and hundreds of divers have had the opportunity to observe this graceful beast, relatively little is known about the shark and its habits. Most of what we do know about white sharks comes from evaluating dead animals, and observing them when they feed on the surface. Until recently our opportunities to observe white sharks throughout the day […]

How to Feed Abalone and Make Them Dance

Abalone have been eaten by humans and disease over the last half century to the point of near extinction in some areas. Fortunately, abalone are still common along some parts of our coast and have even made a slight recovery in others. If you are a hunter, you’ll have to concentrate your efforts north of San Francisco and only during the months of April, May, June, August, September and October. Additional restrictions apply. But this is not an article for hunters, but rather for those […]

Having Fun With Garibaldi

No other fish along our coast has more a predictable behavior that the bright orange garibaldi. And perhaps more important is that no fish has a behavior that can be manipulated as easily as the garibaldi. You can make them come, fetch, stay, heel and more. Just a few simple tricks will have you getting garibaldis to pose and flip for great photos and impress your friends. ORANGE GLOVES Bright orange gloves, about the same color and tone of the the garibaldi themselves, can be […]

Fun With Sea Lions

One of the most exciting encounters a California diver can have underwater is with a sea lion. They are nearly always playful and curious. Remarkably graceful and quick, their underwater antics resemble a contorted but graceful ballet by energetic agile children. ROOKERIES AND HAUL OUTS For your sea lion encounter you need to first be in the right place. Rookeries are best. This is where sea lions are always found, usually in great numbers. It is the rocky shore where they mate, give birth and […]

A Kelp Primer: What You Should Know About Macrocystis pyrifera

We are lucky, you and I, that giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera), the largest kelp in the world, grows off our coast. Swimming through a kelp forest on a sunny day when the water is clear is an awesome experience, as magical as cruising through a redwood forest on land. Giant kelp is a type of brown algae that can grow up to 24 inches a day and attain a maximum length of 175 feet under ideal conditions. While it is known to live at least […]

The Lifecycle of Spiny Lobsters

For many sea creatures parenting is easy; they have little or no contact with their offspring. Take for example, the California spiny lobster (Panulirus interruptus). Found off the West Coast from Monterey Bay, CA, to Magdalena Bay, Mexico, this is the succulent crustacean that causes a diving frenzy known as Lobster Season. Ever wonder why the season is closed between the middle of March and the end of September? Read on and I’ll enlighten you! To ensure his species’ survival, the male spiny has only […]

Horn Sharks

When most of us think of sharks, we think about large, efficient predators with big teeth. This description, however, is only true of a tiny fraction of the world’s approximately 400 species of shark. Most sharks are small, docile, and have really tiny teeth. These are the anti-sharks, and are actually a joy to watch and photograph. The California native, the horn shark is typical of these small sharks. Horn sharks, Heterodontus francisci, belong to the order Heterodonontids, the bullhead sharks. Bullhead sharks first came […]

Scythe Butterflyfish Not A ‘Tropical’ Species

I enjoyed Ken Kurtis’ recent article on Crane Point at the Empire Landing Quarry. This area of Catalina is one of my favorite local dive sites. As Ken mentioned, one of the highlights of this site is the scythe butterflyfish. They’ve been seen in Catalina waters for decades, and as Ken said, most likely dispersed from their usual tropical distribution during an early El Niño. Unlike many tropical fish that enter our waters during such events, the scythe butterflyfish is not really a warm water […]

Lobster Fever: A Cautionary Tale

It’s 3 a.m. in mid-September 197xx and I’m roaring down the 405 Freeway with a crazy person driving. All the windows are down and the 70 mph wind is shrieking through the 10-year old Ford. Suddenly the maniac lifts both hands from the wheel and yells, “Let it go!” The thought strikes me: I’m in trouble… Snugging my seatbelt another notch tighter, I reach under my thigh where a stack of five of the driver’s wrinkled $10 bills are wedged. Per instructions, I pull one […]

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