shark sitings off the coast of Southern California in the past few years. This is due to a rise in population of the Great Whites and is seen as a cause for concern... but appears to bring a bit of good news for us beach-going folks as well.
The more we learn about California Great White sharks... we begin to understand that they are more intelligent than had first been imagined, and they seem to know exactly what they are looking for when it comes to having a 'healthy snack'. Despite this rise in the Great White shark population... there have still been only 9 California fatalities reported to date since 1926... according to the University of Florida's International Shark Attack File.
Apparently this is somewhat of a token of good news to beach lovers because although there has been a significant rise in the
population of California's Great White sharks, attacks on humans are
extremely rare. While commenting on recent shark sightings in La Jolla, California... Ralph Collier, President and founder of the Shark Research Committee, a nonprofit group formed in 1963 to assist the Smithsonian Institution in documenting shark encounters, said "Shark attacks are often the result of curiosity by the fish or an effort
to keep potential threats away from their young... The
sharks really don't care about us. They are not hunting us." He also said that he regularly saw sharks as large as him when he dove the La Jolla kelp beds in the 1970's. "Sharks are everywhere out there"..."Enjoy them." One piece of advice that Collier did offer seems to make good sense: "If you suddenly become very uncomfortable -- if a wave of anxiety
suddenly comes over you -- get out of the water as quickly and calmly as
Wikipedia has compiled an interesting list of documented shark attacks which includes not only California but all of the United States.
The most recent fatal California shark attack was reported In 2010 off the coast of Santa Barbara. A 19 year old bodyboarder was bitten on the legs and later bled to death. Also near Santa Barbara in August of 2010, a kayaker reports having a large Great White bite the nose of his kayak for about 10-15 seconds. In 2008 near a north San Diego County beach... a fatal attack occurred which involved a triathlon swimmer being bitten across both legs. The shark swam away after biting the man but unfortunately he later died. It appears that in most cases that humans are not favored in the Great White shark diet and are often only bitten by mistake and let go after the attack, but the sharks can most definitely become curious or agitated and bite someone. Also, according to Wikipedia, in the Mediterranean Sea, there have been 31 confirmed shark attacks against humans in the last two centuries, mostly non-fatal.
The point being made here is to be aware. There are things one can do when they are in the ocean environment to save themselves.... or at least to give themselves a better chance against these extremely agile creatures. Reports of hitting or kicking them on the nose or side has seemed to have worked in scaring them away. Also hard banging on one's board has been reported to make an underwater sound capable of driving them away...or at least scare them off for the moment. One kayaker from the San Francisco bay area described how a Great White shark rose up out of the water and slammed down onto the kayak paddle which apparently had been annoying the shark.
These sleek predators seem to be able to sit still in surprisingly shallow water environments -- and have been observed under people's surfboards and paddleboards while they are even on a wave! One man reports an 8-9 foot White shark swimming gracefully underneath his surfboard. He said that if he would have fallen he would have been riding the shark.
In another report involving 2 spear-divers in La Jolla Cove reports having been nearly attacked by a couple of Seven Gill sharks but it seems the sharks were only after the recently speared fish in their dive bag. They had to repeatedly hit and kick the sharks and hit them with their spears until eventually they were able to flee and survived.
Dolphins have occasionally been seen protecting surfers as well as small whale pods off the coast of Southern California and other areas as well. The dolphins swim between the sharks and the protected party and isolate them from the shark to allow the potential prey to escape. Dolphins have long been known to be able to fend off sharks fairly well... although they often fall prey to the sharks themselves.
These great predators of the sea have been around for thousands of years... and are not going anywhere. So if you decide to swim in the ocean... do so with care. We are in their world. And in their world... they are supreme. They command respect as they are one of the ultimate predators. One of the only sea creatures that can eat them is a Killer Whale, and it is not entirely common.
So be aware and stay away from known shark infested waters. If someone says they have seen a shark there today... chances are... it's best to avoid the area for a while. It could save one's life to be a bit more aware and to keep a lookout for suspicious signs, like a large dorsal fin moving straight forward on the surface of the water.
Being attacked by a Great White Shark is extremely unlikely. Stay in populated areas of the water... as these sharks seem to be disturbed by this and tend to stay away. If you surf or bodyboard... remember it is always safer to have a partner or group of friends who can help in the case of any kind of emergency. Some of us can't stay out of the water. I fall into that category. The ocean is my passion and I love it. I enjoy all it has to offer me despite the occasional fear I have of the unknown creatures that swim underneath it's surface. I am captivated by the ocean and it's incredible wildness... and it cleanses me when I decide to spend time in it. I am a surfer and bodyboarder as well as bodysurfer, freediver, and swimmer. I choose to accept my fate.. and pray it will be a good one... safe and sound. I pray that for all my friends and family as well... and the entire world of beach-going enthusiasts. Have no fear... but always be aware... on the shore... or in the water. May you travel safe always. Aloha :)