Beachgoers fled the waters off Malibu on Tuesday after several fishermen hooked a large hammerhead shark near the local pier as the latest shark sighting to take place off California unfolded.
A fisherman first hooked the hammerhead shark, thought to be roughly eight feet long, at 2:45 p.m., according to the Los Angeles Times. After fighting with the angler for a few moments, the shark broke away but was quickly caught on another fisherman’s line minutes later. Lifeguards were alerted to the hammerhead’s presence, and once they confirmed the shark’s species and size, they took to the sea in order to warn beachgoers.
— CBS Los Angeles (@CBSLA) September 18, 2015
While lifeguards decided against closing the beaches (since the shark did not appear to be acting aggressively), Los Angeles County lifeguard boats were dispatched in order to warn the kayakers, paddle boarders, and surfers that were in the ocean at that time. According to lifeguard Capt. Ken Haskett, only a few individuals remained in the ocean after being warned of the hammerhead shark.
“The kayakers and paddlers exited, but the surfers… some of them stayed in the water.”
— NBC Nightly News (@NBCNightlyNews) September 18, 2015
The hammerhead shark is just the latest predator to be spotted close to shorelines in California. Last week, a kayaker encountered a hammerhead shark near Dana Point, when the animal attempted to remove several fish from the side of his boat. Another kayaker managed to film the interaction, as the shark acted “aggressively,” latching itself onto a bungee cord used to hold the angler’s catch and trailing just a few feet behind the kayak. Eventually, the shark was able to make off with most of its intended prey, though neither of the fishermen were hurt, as KTLA reports.
— SFGate (@SFGate) September 22, 2015
A warmer-than-average El Nino is thought to be responsible for sightings of not only hammerhead sharks, but also juvenile great whites, close to shore and farther north than they are typically spotted. Researchers assert that warming waters in the eastern Pacific have caused prey fish to migrate to unusual areas, in turn drawing the sharks along with them. Haskett also pointed to an improvement in water quality in recent years as a reason behind an uptick in shark sightings near Malibu.
“It’s definitely helped bring back the smaller marine life – hence the larger marine life. It’s a good sign.”
Though the hammerhead shark wasn’t spotted again after the second time it broke away, lifeguards continued patrolling into Tuesday afternoon.