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Great white sharks: Are they becoming a scary nuisance off Southern California?

White_shark_tim_rock_lonely_planet

If a lot of angry citizens knew what I know, they might suggest an appropriate retreat for AIG executives exacting million-dollar bonuses from bailout money: a long-distance swimming race with no lifelines, originating two miles off Newport Beach.

Here's what I know: This is the season for increased shark sightings off Southern California. More people are venturing into the ocean and juvenile white sharks -- before they become great white sharks -- utilize local waters as a nursery area during the spring.

The fatal attack on a swimmer off Solana Beach last April remains fresh in the minds of some. And two fishermen last week saw what they estimated to be an 18-foot shark, five feet wide, swimming with the confidence of an apex predator two miles beyond Newport Beach.

Steven Lockhart and Aaron Hix reported the sighting to Ralph S. Collier, who runs the Shark Research Committee, which keeps track of attacks and witness accounts off the Pacific Coast of North America.

There's more:

--A surfer over the weekend reportedly was rushed by a large shark off Carlsbad, which is about seven miles north of Solana Beach. This has not been confirmed.

--A beachcomber off Bolsa Chica State Beach on Monday discovered a headless sea lion with other wounds. Perhaps this serves as evidence that adult great whites, which generally prey on much larger elephant seals off Northern California, are utilizing an increasingly dense sea lion population off Southern California.

Solanasharkglennkoenig

--A swimmer and stand-up paddleboard surfer in the Pacific Palisedes area on Saturday reported sighting estimated seven- and eight-foot sharks, 15 minutes apart around 8 a.m. The swimmer said there were two sharks, and that one of them leaped, or breached.

--Three people atop Balboa Pier in Newport Beach on Saturday reported sighting an estimated eight-foot shark, which also breached.

If all of these predators were notorious white sharks, it should not be alarming. For years they've frequented local waters to prey on fish and other small critters before the call of nature drives them north to island elephant seal rookeries. That generally occurs when they reach about 12 feet.

The only odd circumstance is that we're barely crawling out of winter and into spring, so consider this an early shark warning. Keep an eye peeled and enjoy the waves with friends -- and please drive safely because the freeways still remain far more dangerous than any Southland surf spot.

--Pete Thomas

Photo of white shark by Tim Rock/Lonely Planet Images. Second photo shows sign warning swimmers and surfers after a fatal attack last April off Solana Beach. Credit: Glenn Koenig/Los Angeles Times

 
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Comments (24)

A scary nuisance?! Great white sharks live in shallow waters along the coastline. Do you GET it? They LIVE there. Humans live in houses and are air breathers. Now when Great White Sharks start becoming a nuisance in peoples neighborhoods and backyards, then you can call the SHARKS a nuisance.

Jeez! If you don't like what's living in the OCEAN STAY OUT OF IT!

SHARKS ARE LIVING CREATURES JUST LIKE US ON THIS EARTH. I LOVE SHARKS. THE MAIN THING IS THAT WE HAVE TO RESPECT THEM. THE OCEAN IS THERE HOME AND IF WE WANT TO SWIM IN IT THEN THATS ARE OWN RISK. SHARKS ATTACK ON INSTINCT, NOT ON PLEASURE. THEY MISTAKE SURFERS AS SEA LIONS, SO SWIM AT OWN RISK. I HAVE BEEN IN A SHARK CAGE BEFORE AND HAD A 14 FT GREAT WHITE SWIM BY, AND IT DIDNT EVEN HIT MY CAGE. THE MAIN THING IS JUST RESPECT THE OCEAN LIFE, SHARKS HAVE BEEN AROUND FOR A VERY LONG TIME!!

Remember everybody... When you enter the ocean, YOU are no longer at the top of the food chain. Additionally, Great White sharks are protected in California and woe be unto you if Fish and Game catches you openly trying to catch one. These predators have been around for millions of years, that should be warning enough. Please get educated about these magnificent animals. They are opportunistic(sic?) and WILL bite just to taste you before they spit you out.

TRYING TO CONVINCE SURFERS (76 PER CENT OF ALL ATTACKS ARE AGAINST SURFERS) THAT GREAT WHITE SHARKS PRESENT NO HARM AT ALL IS THE MOST IDIOTIC STATEMENT I HAVE EVER HEARD IN MY LIFE. CONSERVATIONISTS, ESPECIALLY THOSE WHO NEVER VENTURE INTO THE SEAS, CAN EASILY MAKE NON-CEREBRAL COMMENTS. WAKE UP!! WE NEED SHARK NETS ASAP IN ORDER TO PROTECT HUMAN BEINGS--WHO-- I HATE TO REMIND YOU--ARE OF MORE WORTH THAN ANIMALS!!! IF YOU DO NOT BELIEVE THIS THAN YOU ARE TRULY A CONSERVATION FANATIC--MUCH LKE RELIGIOUS FANATICS, THAT ARE UNABLE TO UTILIZE THE BRAIN THAT GODE GAVE THEM. RICHARD FAWELL

I'd like to see more thorough research and less fear mongering and sensationalism.

I'd be far more worried about driving your car to the beach than free diving or surfing with a white shark. Sharks (total sharks not white sharks) kill 5 people each year. Automobile accidents kill over a million people per year.

First of all we have to remember, Sharks are one of the oldest creatures on our planet. They were here in the time of the dinosaurs, they are still here, and they will still be here long after we have blown ourselves off the face of this planet. So it is safe to assume that this is their world, not ours. It will be a sad day when sharks decide that we are actually good eating. No one will be able to use the ocean. Sharks aren't a threat to us, infact we kill more than 50 million sharks every year just for their fins.
Sharks do not hang around the waters outside californtia just to wait for surfers and swimmers to come out there so they can bite them. Infact the same shark that rips the head off of some sea lion in cali, could very well be seen off the coast of hawaii or even australia soon after.
If anything these animals are far from mindless eating machines that wander the oceans. They are part of a delicate balance. And they are 100% efficient at what they are designed to do, and we need to give them their space and our respect.
Remember our species is but a fly sitting on a horses ass, and the world will shake us off whenever she has had enough. We are going to create our own extinction. Life finds a way. And if killing us off is the only way for the planet to survive, it will do so. And the great white shark will still be around :)

If great white sharks are on the increase here in So. Cal., it's interesting that there haven't been more attacks. Only the triathlete in Solana Beach is all I know of. If you look at the lineup of 200 plus surfers at San Onofre on a Sunday morning, one has to assume that great white sharks don't generally like to eat people. It would be easy enough for them to eat a lot of us if they wanted to. Still it is scary to me as a surfer that their numbers are growing. But I'd rather die in the jaws of a great white that be killed by some drunk driver or maniac behind the wheel. And like the article said it's far more likely.

Hey, if they eat more sea lions and they eat more surfers then they can't be all bad.


Dear Lyric Grayham,
No-- the sharks are not as big a threat as some would have you believe; and not everyone is saying they are a threat. In case you missed that fact.

Shark attack 'promoters' often hype up even the most specious 'reports' of shark sightings and attribute them to dangerous sharks... leopard sharks, salmon sharks etc,etc, they are reported as white sharks and the whole thing conjures up business for the shark hysteria marketeers.

Come and check out the Annual Santa Cruz Chapter of Surfrider Foundation's 'Shark Briefing', and annual report. Since 1990.

Sean
Santa Cruz California:
http://www.surfridersantacruz.org/

This is very interesting. I'd like to know what the Great White Shark is actually doing to hurt our environment. Are they as big as a threat as everyone says they are?

This story is essentially saying that there have been a number of possible shark sightings in the waters off Southern California. Does this actually equate to an increased shark presence? Is there previous annual data of reported possible shark sightings to compare the recent number of reports to?

Thanks Sean.. I take it you're the same Sean as the one at pelagic.org? Great work. If I lived in northern Cal, I'd love to do volunteer work for your org. Ever since I was a kid, I've always been fascinated by great whites. Anyhow, it's really cool that I crossed your path..

Kevin Harris makes a false assertion when he states:

'it has been shown historically that when their prey is plentiful, they tend to reproduce and congregate in greater numbers.'

The above allegation by by shark conspiracybroker Kevin Harris is completely unsupported and in fact there is no evidence, historical or otherwise to offer as example.

The fact that white sharks have a periodic presence of the California is nothing new, the fact that the numbers of beach goers and ocean recreators has increased to all time highs is obvious; there is no indications that white sharks are anymore a menace now than they were when records of shark attacks (CA) were first catalogued in the 1920's. Sharks are a fact of life for California surfers and others who use the Pacific ocean for work and pleasures.

Get over it, and BTW -- sea borne pollution and water quality are far more pressing issues to California surfers and others concerned about safety in and on the water.

Surf with a buddy,
Sean

Surfrider Foundation, Santa Cruz Ca Chapter
http://www.surfridersantacruz.org/

While great whites are generally slow to mature and reproduce, it has been shown historically that when their prey is plentiful, they tend to reproduce and congregate in greater numbers. I think we may be seeing that off the coast of California with its high density of pinnipeds. There may be other factors at work as well.

But to say definitively that the increase in shark sightings is due only to more people being in the water I think is unproven at best, and may be misleading or worse. The sharks are out there. Yes, some entities profit from pushing frightening images of sharks, but I'd say a far bigger problem are the other entities pushing an artificial harmless image of sharks. Great white sharks are NOT harmless to humans. They are magnificent, amazing wonders, but they are also dangerous predators that can and sometimes do bite, injure or kill people, and when they do, the victims almost never see it coming. That makes it terribly frightening, and understandably so.

Kevin Harris
Sharkconspiracies.net

Over fishing has nothing to do with shark food and substituting surfers as food. If you want to stop the shark attacks tell Sea World to stop dumping seals at children's pool which is not there natural rookery. The seals are wiping out the local fish populations and drawing in large prey to that will soon be eating your kids!

Here's the politically incorrect truth. Most Americans, including me, would like to see any Great White Shark that ventures near our shores....exterminated immediately.

That goes for all sharks. American's are tired of the far-leftist, green-peace traitors who have gotten control of our lives.

Sharks stink. They are lucky we let them live at all. Any Shark near our shores should be quick shark-fin soup. To hell with the Leftist/bastards who want us to sing "kumbaya" with sharks as well as Islami-Nazis and Magic Negro.

This country is being ruined by environmentalists and all the rest of the lunatic leftwing bastards.

The sharks have always been there, along with the bottlenose dolphins (often confused for sharks), harbor seals, porpoises and sealions which they feed upon.

What's changed is the increasingly abundant humans using the waterways and waterfronts for recreation. Increased numbers of beach goers and boaters, kayakers, windsurfers and divers coupled with the very sensitive 'reportage networks' which profit from all these erroneous reports and rumor spills and mills.

There is a 'scary shark' industry which sells books, t-shirts and aquaria knick-knacks (tickets) and this interest and user groups likes all the reports of scary sharks it can get.

White shark reproductive biology doesnt lend itself to mass population growth and reports about large sharks off the coast of California date back to the Zane Gray era and the last depression of the late 1920's.
It's nothing new.

Surf with a buddy,
Sean Van Sommeran

Surfrider Foundation, Santa Cruz Ca Chapter
http://www.surfridersantacruz.org/

Lets have no Hysteria Please or Macho blood lust if someone gets bit.
It's their ocean and I think we have exterminated enough species for paranoid
illogical reasons...thank you

In the spring? there has been shark siteing all year around as far back as 4 years in south orange county. how about we stop over fishing the local waters & they will stop feeding on surfers & swimmers.

Rob, you forgot to add while trolling wall street bankers and AIG bonus people..great fun

Great White Sharks, Southern California ? Excellent !!!!!! Maybe if we are lucky, they will eat half of the extremely overpopulated seal lions before they starve or disease sets in ! Good ol' Mother Nature just keeping the balance of the ocean in check, thats all. Could provide many onlookers with Discovery Channel moments, who get to watch the rare occasion of a seal being mowed like a cheap lawn by a Great white. My version of a perfect day: Fishing with friends ($150), an ice cold Tecate (with lime and salt of course)( $.75c), a bag of Tostitos and a good salsa ($5.44), watching a 18' Great white shark doing flips out of the water with a seal in its mouth (ABSOLUTLY PRICELESS) ! ! ! !

Mr. Thomas,

In general, I enjoy your outdoor related articles and information. I hope this one is just information and not to stir up any anti - great white shark sentiment. They are magnificent animals. As you allude to, it appears that southern Cal waters are more for juveniles before they head north to Monterey and the Farrallons. Also it should be noted, that every year/generation the number of people in and on the water increases - which is probably the reason for increased sightings. Great whites are relatively limited in number and take a while to mature.

Let's all respect them and give them their natural space. Thank you.

You're not gonna start b@#%^ing and moaning if authorities start killing sharks to protect beachgoers, are you?? Because that's what's gonna happen if you keeping reporting these great white sightings, most of which are unconfirmed. The media today basically will run the same story over and over....and over(please see Mom,Octo) until it's Jaws2009 in SoCal. I can see the redundant headlines now.."Sharks to Blame for Economic Crisis" and "Al Quaeda Releases Statement Condemning Great Whites" and the like.

Why not remind everybody you're more likely to get decapitated in Baja than to get attacked by a great white? Since you're so knowledgable on both subjects..

I think you'll see more of this to come, seals are the GW's food source and their population is on the rise, (especially in so cal) and needs to be held in check by this great predator...unfortunately GW's are silhouette hunters and surfers, body-boarders (esp) and swimmers look like slow moving seals...


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