A California shark cluster spotted off the Northern California coast has raised red flags for shark experts. The cluster of 20 sharks was first spotted by the United States Coast Guard on October 16, according to a report by the San Francisco Chronicle.
The group consists of sharks between 10 to 18 feet long, and they were spotted only about 100 yards off shore by the people inside a Coast Guard helicopter that was approximately 500 feet above the water. A shark that measures 18 feet long is considered to be “really big.” However, a majority of the sharks in this cluster are only 10 to 15 feet long. One of the pilots of the two helicopters, Lt. Beau Belanger, called the spotting “amazing” during the sighting.
Is a sighting like this normal? Not at all, according to one expert. Mary Jane Schramm, spokeswoman for the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, spoke about the sighting, and it is not the norm for a group of this size to be so close off the shore. She told the media that it was “the first [she’d] heard of near-shore aggregating in such an urban area.”
Sharks are making the news more and more lately. There has been aggressive behavior exhibited by sharks in the ocean waters around the world. In the United States, especially off the coast of California, shark attacks have been on the rise. That is why this shark cluster off the coast of Northern California is receiving so much attention.
— New Universe Daily (@NewUniverseD) October 24, 2015
This is not the first cluster of sharks spotted off the California coast in recent months either. A group of juvenile sharks approximately eight to 12 feet in size was spotted off the coast of Monterey Bay in July. The group caused concern then because it was thought that it could attract larger great white sharks to the area.
At that time, it was revealed that the juvenile sharks were sent further north than their normal area due to the impact of El Nino. The waters in that area of coastline were warmer due to the weather phenomenon.
David McGuire, director of Shark Stewards, spoke about the two sightings with the San Francisco Chronicle.
“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, but an 18-foot shark is a very large, mature shark and can cause considerable harm to seals or humans. I won’t stop enjoying the ocean, but I might swim and surf somewhere else for a few days.”
He also blamed the El Nino weather phenomenon for the sighting of sharks. The larger sharks are usually spotted near the Farallon Islands, Año Nuevo, and Drakes Bay. It is the juvenile sharks that are usually spotted off the coastline, but the warmer waters are bringing the larger sharks closer to shore.
This does pose a danger to humans and marine line in the area. Earlier this month, a seal was attacked by what appeared to be a great white shark in the San Francisco Bay area near Alcatraz Island.
Video was taken of the incident, and it showed the shark breaching and pulling the seal below the water. The attack drew the attention of many people nearby, and they tried to get closer to watch the shark eat its prey. Within seconds, the blood from the seal was visible on top of the water.
The marine life off the California coastline has been dealing with the increased shark presence in the water, but they have had an impact on people who like to swim and spend time in the ocean waters in recent months as well.
In August, a shark surprised a surfer off the coast of San Luis Obispo. The surfer shared a photo of her surfboard with a giant chunk bitten off it. According to WMYT, Elinor Dempsey did not notice the shark until it was two feet from her. She was waiting for a wave at the time, but she swam for her life once she spotted the shark. After the bite was examined, it was determined that the great white shark was approximately six feet long. The woman was not injured, but authorities closed down the beach for 72 hours following the attack.
California woman narrowly escapes a great white shark – http://t.co/Y1BRKUm3iw pic.twitter.com/jKmmiZQIBY
— WWMT-TV (@wwmtnews) August 30, 2015
Last month, a kayaker had a life-changing experience off the coast of Malibu. He was bitten by a hammerhead shark in the area, and it changed the way he looked at sharks in general, according to ABC News.
Dylan Marks, 29, said, “I’m not shark fishing anymore. I really respect them and this has kind of brought that to light.”
It is clear that the increased shark presence is a real danger to all that swim in the oceans off the coast of California at this time. As McGuire suggested, it might be wise to stay out of the waters off California, especially the area near where this cluster of sharks was seen.
What do you think? Have you ever seen a shark up close?
[Image via Shutterstock]