Is Bay restoration showing benefits? Just ask the sharks.

(Nick Buckmaster/San Jose Mercury News)
One big leopard shark (Nick Buckmaster/San Jose Mercury News)

As you might imagine, the restoration of San Francisco Bay is one of our favorite subjects here at Save The Bay. We are often blogging, posting and tweeting about levee breaks and salt ponds being turned back into wetlands. Frankly, for those who may not be regularly “mired” in excitement about Bay mud, what this is all about may seem a bit abstract and obscure.

For those of you still wondering why wetland restoration is important, this great article by Paul Rogers in the San Jose Mercury News last week really laid it out, with compelling photographs like this one and a powerful case for restoring the Bay. Because it turns out that bringing these former Cargill salt ponds back to wetlands is leading to a noticeable increase in sharks. Lots of them (and no, they won’t bite you).

“We’re starting to see a lot more leopard sharks and also bat rays in the ponds now,” said Eric Mruz, manager of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Fremont.

As the article put it: “In any natural area, when large predators come back, that’s good news.”

With so many of the Bay’s former tidal wetlands lost to saltmaking for decades, leopard sharks were forced to retreat with the tide or they would end up being beached on the South Bay’s wide mudflats. The restored wetlands are now providing swimmable areas for them to stay and feed for days on end. And, the article explains, they are “fattening up.”

“This tells us the water quality is getting better,” Mruz explained. “And it shows that these former salt ponds are providing tremendous amounts of fish, worms, crabs and other species. It tells us the South Bay is getting healthier.” And that is music to our ears.