California Shark Encounters Put Beachgoers on Edge


You could call the summer of 2015 the Summer of Sharks. Stories of attacks on beachgoers from Australia, South Africa and North Carolina have filled the airwaves this summer. Now California is getting into the action.

After many casual sightings up and down the coast, two recent encounters have everyone going in the water looking under their feet. 

In Morro Bay in Central California, a shark took a bite out of a surfer’s board, prompting calls for others to get out of the water. Like a scene from the movie Jaws, dozens of surfers scurried out of the waves with urgency. Elinor Dempsey told a reporter on the scene she was sitting on her board in the lineup when she noticed something underneath her that she thought was a dolphin.

“I looked down and saw it was just sitting there and whatever it was he switched around and breached and bit my board,” she said. “I just turned around and started swimming.”

To avoid the bite, Dempsey said she sort of pushed the board toward the shark. Then a few days later in La Jolla near San Diego, a shark sighting by a kayaker prompted county lifeguards to issue a shark warning.  The kayaker told authorities a 7 foot hammerhead followed him toward the boat dock and swam toward a swimmer before moving on. It marked the second shark sighting in the area in two days and a rare appearance of a hammerhead. 

Shark experts would tell you both of these cases illustrate that sharks making a brief mistake. Every day sharks make decisions on whether to attack suspected prey and most of the time they are correct. In the rare cases of shark attacks — which experts say your chances have actually decreased — the sharks have made a mistake. They bite once and then move on. And in most cases these extremely cautious animals will retreat with any resistance. 

Many experts also believe that the rise in shark activity could be too to El Nino and rising seawater temperatures. We have already seen many changes to marine life activity recently as a result of rising temperatures. 

Photo credit: Dreamstime