GREAT WHITE SHARKS
I personally do not know of anyone that has encountered a Great White Shark at Aliso Beach nor have I heard anything about Aliso Beach Great White Sharks. I am not suggesting that Aliso Beach currently has a problem but the recent attack on professional surfer Mick Fanning on a contest live feed from South Africa’s Jeffrey’s Bay reminds us that as ocean enthusiasts and wave riders, we play in waters that are home to Great White Sharks. Hitting closer to home, a friend reported on Facebook that he was chased by a juvenile Great White Shark out of the water yesterday in the Seal Beach area. This combined with fairly common reports of Great Whites off of San Onofre Beach in San Clemente, recent lifeguard confirmed sightings from the San Clemente pier area, a pack of Great Whites caught on video by a lifeguard drone in the Surfside Beach area of Huntington Beach and daily logs of sighting on the website Pacific Shark News which researches and covers movement and predation of Great White Sharks from Southern California to Washington, makes you wonder if we have a problem. Click on the link in the previous sentence for Pacific Shark News and scroll down to a July 10th entry from Laguna Beach where a body boarder encountered what he believes was a Great White Shark. Having paid attention to Great White Shark activity along the California Coastline for about a decade and reading the logs at Pacific Shark Committee news, the description that Ryan Vaughn offers for the approach of the shark sounds very much like that of a juvenile Great White.
Thousand Steps Beach I would guess is less than 2 miles from Aliso Beach in Laguna. When I ask the question as to whether or not there are Aliso Beach Great White Sharks, I can with relative certainty say they are there and have always been there. These waters are home to Great White Sharks and we know it. The entire Laguna Beach coastline features inter-coastal reefs, headlands and kelp beds that support a diversity of sea life including seals which are a part of the menu for White Sharks. Strangely enough, Laguna Beach encounters are few and far between as I have found from watching Pacific Shark News but I have to believe they are at Aliso Beach and all over Laguna.
Why do I believe this? First and foremost, the ocean is their home. Years ago seals and Great White Sharks were federally protected. Protection for seals has led to an expansion of the primary food source for adult Great White Sharks. As the food goes, so does the population of White Sharks with significant increases in numbers in recent years. This by no means insinuates that Great White Sharks are out of danger in our Pacific waters but does speak to their come back with their own protection in addition to the protection of seals. We also know that juvenile White Sharks like to eat sting rays. Laguna Beach waters have rays. I have read that Grey Whales head back to the Arctic from Baja with their young while hugging the Southern California coast to fend off attacks from Great White Sharks. They seem to like the waters off Laguna Beach and I have read that the shallower areas of the coastline are favored by mothers protecting their calves. knowing what I know about Great White Sharks, the shallower waters would decrease opportunities for surprise ambushes on the Grey Whale calves as being escorted to the feeding grounds to the north by their protective mothers.
Scaring people with this is not the point. This serves as a reminder to people that when we are in the water at Aliso Beach or any California beach along the Pacific Ocean for that matter, we are entering the home of the Great White Shark. There are no reports that I have seen of Aliso Beach Great White Sharks but I am certain they are around. While the horrifying footage of the shark attack on Mick Fanning went viral and became the talk of people thousands of miles from the nearest ocean, we shouldn’t be surprised that this happens every so often and all we can do is hope and pray that when it does, that whomever was attacked walks away just like Mick did. For an ichthyologist’s perspective on the Mick Fanning Shark attack, click the link!