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Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias) breaching in an attack. Stock photo
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Recent shark attack, sightings: Should they be a cause for concern?

REGION — As swimmers, surfers and beach enthusiasts flock to our local shores, so do the sharks.
News outlets and social media platforms have been filled with sightings, spottings, close calls and even an attack in recent months, begging the question: Why?

Are there more sharks than usual, or are we just better at noticing them? And if there is a population surge, then why?
A shark bit a Vista woman April 29 at San Onofre – sending her to a hospital in critical condition. The very next day, eight more sharks were spotted at Capistrano Beach.

Oceanside lifeguard officials closed down the city’s beaches north of the pier and harbor following a shark sighting three weeks ago. And on May 10, swimmers and paddle boarders in Dana Point were fortunate to have an Orange County Sherriff’s Department helicopter overhead, because they spotted 15 great white sharks only yards away from the group. We are well over the statistical average of shark sightings and attacks, so what gives?

Experts have hypotheses that could explain the surge in shark population. One theory posits that, because great whites have been a protected species for years, their population is growing. Another theory is that, like humans, sharks prefer shallow “hot spots” because that’s where the easy meals come from. Seals and sea lions — breakfast and lunch, to a shark — have been protected as well, so their populations have been similarly thriving.

Die-hard surfers are generally the last to leave the water, for any reason. “They’ve been there forever,” said Oceanside resident Jamey Stone, who has been surfing North County San Diego for the past three decades and said he is undaunted by the recent sightings.
“It’s just that now, because of cellphones and drones, we just see them more often — not to mention over-fishing.”

The other obvious question is what to do if you’re caught in the water, and you spot that telltale dorsal fin?

Ralph Collier, form the Shark Research Committee tells us the main thing to do is also the most difficult: don’t panic. “Try to keep sight of the shark at all times,” cautions Collier, “so you can determine if the shark’s movements are smooth and leisurely, or erratic and agitated.”

Collier’s information comes from a handy Q&A on : “If the latter,” he says, “move swiftly to shore, a rock, or even a floating kelp canopy. Adult white sharks tend to avoid kelp forests and canopy’s [SIC], and in fact several divers during the Twentieth Century escaped aggressive white sharks by using these two natural barriers.”

Even with the recent increase in apex predator appearances, it’s still unlikely that the average swimmer will have an incident. Just remember to keep your wits about you, and one eye on the environment.


jesus r April 8, 2018 at 9:38 pm

We should cull these numbers down. If T-Rexs were still around people would be clamoring to save them saying theyre endangered and essential to the environment.

Paul July 23, 2017 at 11:18 am

Sharks are like dogs.they only bite when you touch their privates bra!.

Bill May 23, 2017 at 2:20 pm

Shark attacks don’t have airbags…

EricI May 21, 2017 at 3:09 am

Why are comments disabled on the Cindy Hahn story? Surely not allowing the video in court is an outrage and this whole case is important.

KC Krause May 19, 2017 at 6:57 pm

The reality is SoCal shark attacks are so rare they are akin to an airline plane crash – ~1 in 40 million chance! By contrast ~10 people a day die driving in California including ~1 EVERY single day in SD alone… In contrast Hawaii & Florida have shark attacks monthly year round – with so daily ocean goers it is more common. Also Oz, Brazil & South Africa also have regular attacks to the point they have netted many beaches because of the weekly attacks in some areas. Driving to the beach is far more dangerous than time in the Ocean! enJoy!!

Mary Moeller May 18, 2017 at 10:08 pm

I appreciate this article, however, if you’re going to address the do’s and dont’s of avoiding a shark attack, the single most important thing to know is sharks have a feeding time twice a day and it’s important to know when that is!
Early morning and late afternoon/early evening are the most likely times a shark will mistake you (especially in a wet suit!) for a seal or other food. Being in the ocean after dark especially increases your chances of a shark encounter.
Thanks for the reporting Coast News; I depend on you for much of my coastal information, but let’s not be negligent in regards to such a danger in our waters.

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