This summer has already shown an increase in shark sighting off the coast of southern California. Last month, fifteen sharks were seen swimming in the shallows off the coast of Long Beach, with sightings from Orange County through San Diego. Officials have also reported approximately 10 to 20 juvenile sharks swimming daily off the Peninsula Beach. Silicon Beach is just north of these sightings, and with most of our residents avid beach-goers, we figured we would do a little digging as to why our coasts seem to have more sharks than past years.
According to George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File in Florida, “White shark populations on the West Coast had declined over several decades, but indication right now is that they’re beginning to rise again ever so slowly thanks to federal and state protection of the species.”
There are multiple reasons why White Sharks are on the rise, but the biggest reason being the Marine Mammal Protection Act. In the 1970’s, the act was initiated in order to provide protection for sea mammals such as sea lions, seals, otters, dolphins and whales. With more sea mammals, there is a larger source of food for the White sharks. This domino effect created a better environment for White sharks to grow and reproduce in.
There are currently more recorded young White sharks than ever before, but Burgess reminds us that there is no reason to worry about a steep increase of adult White sharks. “Young sharks are always found in Southern California, which is a nursery area for little guys.” He went on to say that young are born in numbers with the expectation that few will make it to full adulthood.
Another reason for the recent increase of sharks in California waters is changing weather. We are currently in an El Nino year, meaning that the water is warmer than past years. This creates a better environment for sharks that usually enjoy the warmer waters south of us.
The third reason as to why we fee like there are more sharks this year than in the past, is our new use of technology. We have all read the headlines, “Drone Shows Great White Sharks Circling California Kayaker in Monterey Bay,” or “Large Shark Filmed by Drone Swimming off Capistrano Beach”. Drones flying over the ocean capture moments that very well may have taken place in previous years, but we are only now able to capture video.
This new technology paired with the fact that young sharks are on the rise, makes for the perfect storm. Yes, there are more sharks off the coast of California than ever before, but it is not as drastic as the public might believe. The use of drones and other new technology show us parts of the ocean that most of us would never get to see, so of course it can be shocking to see entire nurseries of sharks right off our coast lines.
If you do happen to spot a shark in the water, the best thing you can do is stay calm. That is probably easier said than done, but it could mean the difference between a safe swim back to land and a deadly disaster. Another tip is to stay out of the water during morning light and sunset, which is the sharks feeding time. You should also stay with a group of people, and only swim where there are lifeguards or emergency personnel incase something does happen. And remember, humans are not the shark’s prey; it is statistically more dangerous to drive on the freeway than be in the ocean.