Southern California coast a hot spot for great white sharks


"There appears to be a stretch along Santa Monica and Malibu that sharks like. What it is about that spot? We don't know," said Dr. Chris Lowe, a marine biologist at California State University at Long Beach.

Experts say new laws have led great white sharks to show up off our shores in bigger numbers than ever before.

In 1994, California voted to ban the use of near shore gill nets, which meant gill netters could only fish outside three miles, Lowe said.

"What we've noticed since then is the number of baby sharks being caught has gone up," Lowe said.

Protection of marine mammals like sea lions has kept them near the California coast. The sound of sea lions is like a dinner bell to sharks and they're hearing it more and more.

In the 1920s it was estimated that there were as few as 3,000 California sea lions in all of California and Baja California. Now it's estimated there are more than a quarter million, Lowe said.

Two weeks ago, Eyewitness News joined the shark team from the Monterey Bay Aquarium out to sea as they searched for great whites.

The team caught a pup small enough to display at the aquarium's 1 million gallon exhibit. It will be the sixth white shark on display.

"Our staff was out in the Santa Monica bay and were able to catch a young of the year great white shark. A little under 5 feet and bring it here to the holding pen," said Ken Peterson of the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

"The sharks that have been kept on exhibit up there have taught us so much about how quickly sharks can grow, what kind of food they like to eat, so we've learned a lot from that," Lowe said.

Each shark is eventually released back into the wild with a satellite tag to monitor its movements. "We have the nursery ground for the white shark, here on our beaches, so that's very special, something we have to protect and take care of," Lowe said.

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