Unprecedented number of young great white sharks seen in Monterey Bay
MONTEREY – A new study shows a population boom for young great white sharks in Monterey Bay.
Researchers from the Monterey Bay Aquarium and California State University, Long Beach say the shark population began during an El Niño weather event in 2014 and the population has grown every year since.
“Monterey Bay is getting warmer. Progressively warmer. Since then there have been nurseries of juvenile great white sharks in Santa Cruz which has never been documented before. We attribute this to climate change because the bay is getting warmer,” said researcher Chris Lowe, PhD.
The new study is a concern for surfers and swimmers. It is also a confirmation of what they have already seen.
“It’s shocking and then you’re like, okay, a shark. Guess I’ll go now,” said Julie Malcolm, who has been surfing around Santa Cruz for a year.
She said she had never seen so many sharks in the water as recently.
“They’re a little small. They’ll breach. Like, full breach right out of the water. I had them swimming right below me, doing aggressive tail hops,” Malcolm said.
Juvenile sharks are 4 to 9 feet long and generally do not pose a great threat to humans.
“When these sharks use these nurseries, they ignore people. As long as people don’t bother them, they don’t bother people,” Lowe said.
What is not known is what happens when they reach maturity.
“Larger sharks that feed on marine mammals are more likely to confuse a human,” Lowe said.
Overall, the white shark population is increasing.
Although attacks are rare, in 2020 a surfer was killed in a shark attack off Aptos.
Some surfers now use a type of magnetic repellent strapped to their ankles.
“Supposedly the magnetic field repels sharks. It’s just a small step I’m taking to possibly prevent an attack, but life is at risk,” surfer Joe McCroskey said.
And at least on Manresa Beach Friday, many seemed willing to take the risk.
“We just go out there and have fun and don’t worry about the risks,” surfer Jade Newkirk said.