Juvenile White Sharks Spotted Off Del Mar Beach
Groups of juvenile white sharks have recently been spotted off Del Mar beaches by surfers.
Kian Hoover, a Solana Beach resident, was flying his drone over the ocean near 15th Street in Del Mar.
“I flew the drone past 15th street and immediately saw two juvenile white sharks,” he said. Those sharks were swimming near surfers.
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Hoover said he was surprised to spot the sharks near a beach where he has surfed most of his life. He showed the footage to his cousins, who then made a plan to check the sharks out.
“We're gonna go over, we're gonna take the stand up paddle boards and we're gonna check out the sharks, and I was like ‘Ok yeah, I'm down, that sounds fun,’,” Hoover said.
Hoover and his cousins got on their paddle boards and got up close footage of the sharks on Hoover’s GoPro camera. The footage shows a juvenile white shark swimming just below Hoover’s paddle board.
“As we kept paddling around, sure enough there was more and more,” he said. “We kept going until we saw about 7 or 8 (sharks) total.”
Hoover said the up close encounter didn’t make him nervous because juvenile white sharks are known to be less aggressive.
“I knew that the smaller juvenile sharks are just less aggressive in general. They’re after smaller prey like stingray and fish. It was an experience forsure,” he said.
Chris Lowe, the director of the Shark Lab at California State University of Long Beach, said Hoover is right.
“They’re hanging out there, we think, because it's safe. They don't know they’re a white shark yet, they’re scared of everything,” Lowe said. “They have to find food, and the easiest thing for them to catch, which is super abundant, are stingrays.”
Lowe said that it looks like a group of juvenile white sharks have made a home out of the Del Mar beach.
“So what we’re learning is that these sharks, especially these young ones, have favorite beaches. And they pick a beach any given summer and they're there, and they will be there day and night for months at a time,” he said. “And then something changes, maybe the water temperature drops, and then they'll move to another favorite beach.”
Lowe has partnered with the city of Del Mar and Del Mar lifeguards to study the sharks for research. Together, they will be tagging the sharks and tracking their activity.
“We have no idea where they go, so now that we're tagging baby sharks with transmitters that last 10 years, we are starting to figure that out,“ he said.
The sharks are being tagged with acoustically transmitting darts that send signals to underwater buoys set up throughout the coast.
Lowe said a year from now, the data collected will help researchers know more about white sharks.
He said the influx in the juvenile white sharks comes after stricter management of commercial fishing.
“Shark numbers have been increasing along the California coast for the last 20 years because we protected them, and commercial fishing is better managed,” he said. “So as a result, shark populations are coming back, particularly white sharks, which is kinda cool.”
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Lowe said he receives news of shark sightings very often. “Our beaches are awesome nurseries for white sharks, but they also happen to be our playground. So we have to learn to share the playground,” he said
Lowe believes the juvenile white sharks will continue to stay in Del Mar.
He hopes beach goers will be respectful if encountering them and suggests surfers go out in groups.