Sharks and Surfing: What You Should Know

A pack of sharks was photographed on Sunday afternoon near Capistrano Beach

Photo: Courtesy of Matt Larmand

As seen throughout all local news channels, sharks are taking over Southern California coasts. But really, why is there a massive increase of shark activity happening? Many people are breaking out into hysteria as each day passes and more drone footage is released of silhouettes of sharks swimming awfully close to shores. People are scrambling for answers and some are avoiding going into the ocean at all costs. But, what is causing these seemingly sudden shark hangouts to be occurring so often? We're here to help uncover the truth about sharks and surfing.

According to Chase Scheinbaum, writer for The Inertia, there are a number of factors contributing to the increase in shark spottings recently:

  • Increase of shark populations in the water - According to Chris Lowe of the Shark Lab at California State University, Long Beach, there are an estimated 2,400 great white sharks living in the waters off California. This could be a sign of a relatively healthy ecosystem, which is a good thing.
  • El Nino and climate change are playing a role - The waters off of the Southern California coast have served as nursing grounds for young Great White Sharks. These sharks are picky about water temperature which dictates their migration patterns explaining why they hang-out around Southern California from late spring to mid-fall.

During El Nino in 2014-15, water temperatures warmed. The warmer waters spurred the younger Great Whites to stick around later into the winter and return earlier in spring. According to Chris Lowe, “ocean temperatures are rising, causing [sharks] to live in places they’ve never lived before”.

Are the sharks here to stay? We aren’t sure, but for now here are two reasons why you should not be afraid of them according to Trace Dominguez from Discovery News:

  • Sharks don’t have a taste for humans. Many shark attacks are due to sharks mistaking humans for their normal prey, like fish, seals, sea turtles etc.
  • Shark attacks commonly occur from sharks taking a bite out of a human, realizing the mistake, and leaving. This can happen if you are around a shark during feeding time or if it is feeling hostile or trapped.

Are you still afraid? Here are some tips to minimize attention from sharks:

  • Stay in groups- sharks are more likely to attack prey that is alone.
  • Be aware of the time of day you’re in the vicinity of sharks so you can avoid them when they’re feeding (they feed early morning and late in the afternoon).

An important thing to remember is that the ocean is a shark’s home. We are infringing on their habitat every time we enter the water, so although we should not be afraid of them, we should instead be aware of them. Yes, there is an increase of Great White Shark populations along the Southern California coast, but there’s no reason to give up surfing and avoid going in the ocean. Respect the ocean, respect the sharks.

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