Great Whites get all the attention, but the waters of the San Francisco Bay are teeming with other, smaller sharks (like the leopard shark), who occupy the top spot on the Bay food chain. Where do they live? What is their relationship with sharks on the coastal waters? How do their social structures work? How many are there? There are many unanswered questions about the Bay’s sharks, but in order to study these animals, researchers have to catch them first.

The Aquarium of the Bay is launching a program to learn more about these sharks. They are sending out their collection boats to catch, tag, and release as many Bay sharks as they can find. Next would be a campaign to get Bay Area fishermen and others to report the tags they find, and create a database. Lastly, researchers will launch a second round of tagging, using acoustic tags that respond to sensors already placed around the bay (and typically used to track salmon populations).

You may listen to the “Sharks of the San Francisco Bay” Radio report online, as well as find additional links and resources. Also see additional photos for this story.

Amy Standen is a Reporter for QUEST and Radio News at KQED-FM.

  • Arnaud

    Why isn’t there any great white in the Bay?

  • Chris Spaulding

    There are several variables that may contribute to why great whites do not frequent San Francisco Bay. Water quality (i.e. temperature and salinity), turbidity/visibility, and prey are just a few things that come to mind.

    White sharks around California prefer cooler coastal waters that extend out to the open ocean. San Francisco Bay is also a very murky environment where visibility (how far you can see through the water) may play a factor as to why white sharks are not around the Bay as much. Great whites have been found to rely upon eye-sight for much of their hunting strategies, particularly when it comes to catching some of their favorite foods – seals and sealions. Finally, the amount of prey (i.e. seals and sealions) that are accessible and easy for white sharks to catch are less common in the bay. White sharks develop very unique strategies for hunting their prey where it is most abundant in order to increase their odds of a meal. Even though there are plenty of sealions at Pier 39, San Francisco Bay is not the most suitable environment for white sharks to catch them.

    With all of that said, there is a decent sized population of white sharks that spend a good portion of the year just outside of San Francisco Bay along the coast. I wouldn’t be surprised if one or two didn’t occassionally venture into the Bay beyond the Golden Gate Bridge to have a quick look around.


Amy Standen

Amy Standen (@amystanden) is co-host of #TheLeapPodcast (subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher!) and host of KQED and PBSDigital Studios' science video series, Deep Look.  Her science radio stories appear on KQED and NPR. Email her at

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