A new study from Cal State Long Beach found that juvenile great white sharks are more common at some California beaches than previously thought. In certain areas, sharks are in close proximity to surfers and swimmers 97 percent of the time.
Per the Los Angeles Times, over the course of a two-year study, researchers at Cal State Long Beach used drones to watch over two dozen beaches along the California coast. Two spots in southern Santa Barbara County and central San Diego County turned out to have a particularly large congregation of juvenile white sharks (aged one to five). At those locations, sharks and people were found swimming together 97 percent of the time, according to findings released on Friday.
“The juvenile white sharks were often observed within 50 yards of where the waves break, putting surfers and stand-up paddle boarders in the closest proximity to sharks at the aggregation sites,” Patrick Rex, a lab technician at the Cal State Long Beach Shark Lab, said in a statement. “Most of the time water users didn’t even know the sharks were there, but we could easily see them from the air.”
It turns out that at these aggregation sites, sharks spend most of their time within 100 yards of the breaking waves. Moreover, they’ll come to within 10 feet of swimmers on a daily basis. This is a lot closer than researchers originally believed.
However, rather than stoking fears of sharks in the lineup, Rex says that this information should comfort surfers and swimmers. Though people often think seeing a shark in the lineup signals danger, the findings of the report do not necessarily show that. In fact, no shark bites were reported at any of the beaches observed during the two-year survey.
Christopher Lowe, a professor of marine biology and director of the CSLB Shark Lab, told ABC7 in a previous interview that, “Despite the fact that the [shark] population is going up, and more people are using the ocean than ever before, bite rates aren’t dramatically increasing.”
Generally, sharks will inhabit California waters during the summertime and then migrate down to Mexico when the water gets too cold. However, it seems that now some of the sharks are not leaving at all. Rex pointed to warmer waters and climate change as the potential reason for the new development.
“It means that the sharks may not be making that long migration anymore,” Rex said. “But we need more data and more time to make any conclusions on that.”