A shark cluster was spotted off of the coast of California last week.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the U.S. Coast Guard reported that they had spotted the group of nearly 20 great white sharks on Saturday off of the coast of Pacifica and Ocean Beach. The sharks, some ranging between 10- and 18-feet long, were seen swimming approximately 100 yards offshore.
Mary Jane Schramm, a representative of the National Marine Sanctuary at the Gulf of Farallones, said two coast guard helicopters spotted the sharks as they were flying nearly 500 feet over the Pacific Ocean.
“This is the first I’d heard of near-shore aggregating in such an urban area,” Schramm said, adding that she could not remember ever seeing so many large sharks in one place.
“An unusual number of juvenile white sharks under 10-feet long have been observed this year, likely associated with the unseasonably high water temperatures along the coast,” said David McGuire, the director of Shark Stewards, a nonprofit shark conservation group affiliated with the Earth Island Institute. “But an 18-foot shark is a very large, mature shark and can cause considerable harm to seals or humans.”
The larger sharks are generally seen at this time of year off of the coasts of the Farallon Islands, Año Nuevo, and Drakes Bay, McGuire explained. Normally, it is the smaller juvenile sharks that are seen by people along the coast. He said their pattern could have been altered due to the El Niño weather pattern warming the water.
The sharks in the region are known as northeastern Pacific white sharks and can grown up to 21 feet long and can weigh upwards of 7,000 pounds, making them the largest predatory fish on Earth. The can easily be identified by their grayish skin, white bellies, and their bullet-shaped bodies. Their mouths are complete with 300 serrated, triangular teeth arranged in several rows, and they have a remarkable speed throughout the water, averaging up to 15 miles-per-hour. The sharks have a remarkable sense of smell to detect their pray, which usually includes sea lions, seals, small toothed whales, sea turtles, and carrion.
The northeastern Pacific white sharks are typically found in Australia, South Africa, and the northeastern part of United States, and come to feed at the Farallon Islands this time of year.
“I won’t stop enjoying the ocean, but I might swim and surf somewhere else for a few days,” McGuire said, adding that those entering the ocean should be aware of their surroundings and pay attention to posted signs about possible sharks in the area.
A system called #Sharkwatch was set up Shark Stewards on Twitter to allow surfers and other people who swim, or kayak, in the ocean to monitor the sharks.
According to the Shark Watch website, local youth and other citizens are “recording observations of sharks and rays in the wild and recording the data using the iNaturalist App. This Citizen Science provided data will help us understand the range, movements, distribution and behavior of San Francisco Bay, Tomales Bay and Pacific sharks, skates and rays.”
The Census for Marine existence reports that around 3500 great whitened sharks can be found on the planet at any given time. Of the 100 plus shark attacks that happen each year, great whites are accountable for one third to one half, according to National Geographic.
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