Shark sightings prompt warnings at OC beaches

By Perry Rohr

San Clemente beachgoers spot more than 10 sharks in two days

Shark sightings in the ocean off the South Orange County coastline have locals on the alert. (Credit: alondav / Pixabay)

Days after a woman was attacked by a shark off the coast near San Onofre State Beach, a large number of sharks have been spotted in San Clemente, prompting lifeguards to close San Clemente beaches and post warnings throughout the Orange County coastline.

On Sunday, April 30, nine 8-to-10 foot sharks were counted lurking the waters near Poche Beach. The next day, an 11-footer was seen swimming underneath the SC pier and an aggressive great white shark reportedly chased two surfers out of the water at Upper Trestles.

Despite the recent shark activity, certain local surfers haven’t been deterred from paddling out at their favorite spots. Andy Nieblas, 22, says shark sightings in Orange County are nothing new.

“The sharks have always been there, I think now we’re just seeing a lot more pictures of them because nowadays so many people have drones,” Nieblas said. “I still feel safer in the water surfing than I do driving on the freeway.”

Not everyone takes a relaxed view toward potential predators. Some view the sightings as cause for concern. Jamie Keisker, 21, enjoys visiting many of the same beaches where the sharks sightings occurred.

“I’ve been surfing in S.C. for ten years and this is the most shark sightings I’ve ever heard of in such a short time frame,” Keisker said. “Combine that with the fact that a surfer was attacked, people should definitely be more careful right now in terms of water safety.”

City officials temporarily closed San Clemente beaches but have reopened them with posted warning signs on the sand. Lifeguards say to avoid going in the water entirely, but that hasn’t deterred the more dedicated local surfers.

“I’m not gonna lie, since the shark attack happened the lineup has been a lot less crowded,” Nieblas said. “I catch more waves ‘cause there’s way less people out here now.”

Concerned beachgoers are wondering why there has been a sharp increase in shark activity. Some argue it’s due to a dead whale carcass, which was towed by officials three miles off Poche Beach to decompose in deep water. Others say that since more people have drones now, a greater number of shark photographs can be taken, but that doesn’t imply there is actually a greater number of sharks in our waters.

According to marine biologists, warming waters and abundant food create the perfect feeding conditions for young sharks. In Southern California, these conditions have combined to form a temporary shark haven.

Dr. Chris Lowe, director of California State Long Beach’s Shark Lab, said that the uptick in the local shark population has been a result of improved conservation efforts and water quality testing. Beyond that, his reminder is that a person’s chance of getting bit by a shark is still about the same as winning the lottery.