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Possible great white shark attack off Carlsbad no cause for alarm

August 31, 2009 | 11:47 am

Shark1

Reports of a possible attack by a juvenile white shark on a swimmer off Carlsbad have surfaced on the Internet but should not be cause for alarm.

The incident occurred last Tuesday afternoon off Terramar Beach. Bethany Edmund was swimming about 300 feet from shore in the surfing lineup, trying to shoot photos. A large fish jumped, and moments later she felt a sharp pain in her right foot and thought she had kicked the reef.

"About 30 seconds later I felt the same sharp pain and, this time, I began to swim away from the area," Edmund said in a report posted on the Shark Research Committee website. "About a minute later while I was swimming from the area I was hit on the upper right thigh and propelled about one foot out of the water. This is when I realized what was happening and began to bodysurf toward shore.

"The first wave I caught I felt something in the area of my calf pulling me back and down under water. ... I ignored what had just occurred and caught another wave to the beach. This time I felt the same sharp pain in my left calf, but this time I was dragged under water and shaken for 4-5 seconds. During this struggle I accidentally kicked the shark and it released me."

There was no profuse bleeding, only small puncture wounds. Area beaches were not closed. Ralph Collier of the Shark Research Committee used these bite marks to determine it was a white shark measuring 5 to 6 feet. 

It should be pointed out that juvenile white sharks do utilize Southern California waters in the summer, sharing the same environment with thousands of swimmers and surfers. They feed primarily on small fish and rays, and when they get bigger they migrate out of the region and begin preying on seals and sea lions.

There is an ongoing tagging program involving juvenile white sharks in Southland waters. The Monterey Bay Aquarium staff recently captured a 5-foot white shark off Malibu and has the predator on exhibit.

Attacks such as this are extremely rare, and experts will cite that a far greater danger, statistically, lies on the freeways and roads leading to the beach.

Adult great white sharks do not frequent Southern California coastal waters, but they are occasional visitors. This became sadly evident in April 2008, when a 66-year-old swimmer was fatally attacked off Solana Beach.

But that too was a very rare event. 

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: Great white shark prowls the waters near Guadalupe Island off Baja California. Credit: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times

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