Helicopter Pilot Mark Robinson came across the most unexpected occurrence when flying over Seal Beach recently; hundreds of sharks. At first he was in a bit of a panic. “I thought to myself ‘I hope there’s no one in the water,’” said Robinson. “I didn’t know what kind of sharks they were.” Turns out, they were leopard sharks. We know this because of the large dark spots on their bodies.
Leopard sharks pose no real threat to humans, according to Chris Lowe, director of the Shark Lab at Cal State Long Beach. Since 1998, he has observed the migratory patterns of many different types of sharks in Southern California and the surrounding regions.
But the question still remains, why are they here? The short answer is gestation. Pregnant females love warm, shallow waters. They are widely known to stay in La Jolla Shores for a majority of their gestation period. But as of late, there have been sightings in Catalina, Belmont Shores, and now Seal Beach. Most, if not all, of the sharks in this video are females. Male leopard sharks tend to stay further up the coast, according to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.
Female leopard sharks have a gestation period of 10-11 months and typically give birth in early-spring to about 15-20 pups. However, scientists have witnessed female leopard sharks give birth to up to 37 sharks at one time. Fully-grown leopard sharks grow up to 4-5 feet but can grow up to 6 feet in length.
The abrupt increase in shark sightings may be attributed to El Niño, which has brought unusually warm water to the coast. Since this is kind of a paradise for leopard sharks in gestation, they aren’t migrating out of this area as quickly as usual. Typically these sharks migrate further south to San Diego or Mexico for the winter.
Although Shark Week was a few months ago, we’d still like to welcome these awesome creatures to Seal Beach. Or should we just rename it Shark Beach at this point?
No, that’ll never happen. But you get my point.