A surprising number of great white sharks have been spotted recently in Monterey Bay, along with one specimen that is believed to be a staggering 18-feet-long.
The sightings began last week, when lifeguards spotted a shark fin slicing through the waves on Tuesday, according to SFGate. Authorities promptly canceled the NorCal Junior Lifeguard competition, which was taking place nearby, citing safety concerns and the logistics of dealing with a potential shark threat.
After catching wind of the shark sighting, marine biologist Giancarlo Thomae boarded a helicopter and took off from Watsonville Airport in an attempt to observe the animals. Flying over the wreck of the cement ship Palo Alto, which is located just offshore at Seacliff State Beach at Aptos, Thomae quickly began to observe a staggering number of great whites.
“Five minutes after take off, we started seeing them near the cement ship,” he recalled. “I counted 15 across a half mile of ocean.”
— Carlos Gavina (@CGShark) March 12, 2015
Thomae pointed out that despite the large number of great whites patrolling the area around a large group of children, no one was bitten.
“Imagine seeing 15 great whites swimming around the junior lifeguard competition,” Thomae postulated. “They had to get 300 kids out of the water.”
Most of the sharks that Thomae sighted were between eight to 12 feet long, and were almost certainly great whites, as evinced by their silhouettes. One shark, however, stood out from the others, and based on Thomae’s observations, it was a full 18-feet-long, tipping the scales at an estimated 5,000 pounds. Such a white shark is not unheard of, as the Inquisitr has previously reported, but is nonetheless notable for its astonishing size.
Shark warning signs were posted at local beaches following the great white sightings, according to California Diver Magazine. Large schools of mackerel had migrated into the Monterey area over the course of the last week, and it is believed that the fish, in combination with marine mammals feeding upon them, presented a favorable prey environment for the white sharks.
— Monterey Aquarium PR (@MontereyAq_PR) October 7, 2014
Though unusual due to the number of sharks spotted, the sighting is not the first time that great whites have been observed in Monterey. In January, a nine-foot-long white shark was spotted near the cement ship, while last year, a juvenile great white was observed elsewhere in Monterey Bay.
[Image: Giancarlo Thomae Photography via Twitter]