Victim of shark attack was noted sport fishing advocate

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Posted by on August 18, 2004 at 14:16:33:

In Reply to: Shark estimated at 16-18 feet; 'it was over in five seconds' posted by Chris on August 17, 2004 at 21:33:39:

Death of Randall "Randy" Fry shocks fishing, marine communities
Herald Staff Writer

A nationally known sport fishing advocate who was killed by a great white shark off the Mendocino coast Sunday was instrumental in convincing the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary to add a recreational fishing representative to its advisory council earlier this year.

Randall "Randy" Fry lobbied the sanctuary board to have two fishing seats on its advisory council, one for the commercial industry and one for recreational anglers. As western regional director for the Recreational Fishers Alliance, a political organizing and lobbying group, Fry had also helped the often-acrimonious fishing groups work together for fishing interests.

Fry was killed Sunday afternoon by a 16- to 18-foot shark while he and two friends were diving for abalone in 20-foot waters near Fort Bragg. His headless body was recovered by a Coast Guard search crew on Monday.

The news of Fry's death reverberated through California's fishing and marine communities on Tuesday. Sport fisherman Howard Egan of Santa Cruz worked with Fry to lobby for the sanctuary advisory council's recreational fisher seat.

"He and I worked on getting that seat together," said Egan, the Monterey Bay sanctuary-affairs coordinator for the Recreational Fishers Alliance and the council's alternate member representing the fishing industry.

"We're a collection of volunteers," Egan said of the alliance. "Randy was our one full-time paid member. Randy held things together. He kept all the activities coordinated, all the big picture stuff. It's going to be really a big loss to lose that kind of continuity and it's going to be really hard to replace him both personally and professionally."

Sanctuary spokeswoman Rachel Saunders said it was at the "urging" of Fry and other recreational fishers that the sanctuary placed a chair at its advisory table for recreational fishers. The sanctuary is seeking applicants for both primary and alternate members to fill that seat. Applications are due by Aug. 27.

Applicants should be active recreational fishers familiar with fishing issues within the sanctuary, able to conduct outreach to the broader recreational fishing community and committed to the sanctuary's environmental stewardship goals, Saunders said.

She said the sanctuary previously offered only one seat to both the commercial and recreational fishing communities because the recreational anglers initially weren't as "engaged" with the sanctuary as commercial fishers. The group, including Fry, sought more involvement in the decision-making process once the sanctuary began considering passage of "marine protected areas," where all fishing would be off-limits.

"We were shocked and saddened to hear" of Fry's death, Saunders said.

An Auburn resident, Fry was a frequent visitor to the Mendocino Coast and its shallow-water abalone beds, where abalone takes are limited but legal.

Cliff Zimmerman of Fort Bragg, a longtime friend of Fry's, was in the water with him when the shark attacked.

As Fry was diving head-first below the water's surface, Zimmerman said he heard a "'whoosh,' like a submarine, like a boat going by fast. It almost brushed me. I saw its dorsal fin."

The next thing he saw was a pool of blood spreading across the surface of the water. Neither Fry nor the shark was seen again.

"It was over in five seconds," said Red Bartley of Modesto, another friend who witnessed the attack from the trio's boat.

The Coast Guard searched until dark on Sunday and then found the decapitated body in nearby waters Monday morning. A Mendocino Sheriff's Department spokesman said divers would continue to search for Fry's remains later this week, in the hopes the shark would leave the area.

Only 10 other people have been killed in shark attacks on the West Coast in the last 50 years, including two people in Monterey County. Barry Wilson was killed in 1952 while swimming in Pacific Grove, and Lewis Boren was fatally attacked while surfing in Spanish Bay in 1981.

While there have been a number of shark attacks on the Mendocino Coast, Fry is the first fatality.

"It's certainly a shock," said Egan of the sanctuary council, "especially when you think there have been only 10 deaths in the last 20 or 30 years and he got hit by one of them."

The San Francisco Chronicle and the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat contributed to this report.

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