Baby Sharks Fall Victim To Poachers Along The California Coast

The waters off Southern California have become a nursery for baby sharks, yet the juvenile predators are increasingly falling victim to poachers who deliberately seek them out.

Several species of baby sharks, including great whites, use the ocean off California as a nursery site this time of the year, as ABC 7 reports. Dr. Chris Lowe, who directs the Shark Lab at Cal State Long Beach, noted that the area has seen a recent rise in shark populations, particularly among great whites. As the white sharks sit at the apex of the food chain, this is a positive sign for the local ecosystem, yet with the sharks’ presence comes an increase in poachers specifically targeting the animals.

According to the Department of Fish and Wildlife, some of the poachers in question are actively seeking out baby sharks. Great white sharks, even juveniles, are often considered trophies among local anglers, while other species, like lemon sharks, can be sold on the black market. Anglers often catch baby tiger sharks by accident in the region, as the L.A. Times reports, but keeping the animals is considered a misdemeanor under state law, which can be punished by a $1,000 fine, or a six-month-long jail sentence.

Earlier this year, baby white sharks made their presence known off California’s Ventura Beaches, surprising swimmers and surfers alike with their unusual proximity to shore. As the Inquisitr previously reported, the young sharks were lingering in the region as they migrated southward, and approached the shore so closely that surfers noticed them in the shallows. The baby sharks ranged in size from three to six-feet-long, and while eight to 10 individual predators were documented by local harbor patrol officers, the animals hardly acted with aggression. Enticed close to shore by pockets of warm water, the sharks swam alongside beachgoers, who experts said had little to fear from the great whites.

Lowe noted that the action of the poachers in Southern California could have a drastic impact not only on the local shark species, but also the entire ecosystem.

“We’re the stewards of these resources,” he observed. “We’re the beneficiaries of these resources, and when people do this illegally all they’re doing is hurting everyone in California.”

Authorities asked any beachgoers that observe poachers targeting baby sharks to report them to the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

[Image via KSBW]