Warning: Shark chumming changes animal's behavior, puts people at risk, experts say

Leanne Suter Image
Saturday, June 17, 2017
Warning: Shark chumming puts beachgoers at risk, experts say
Long Beach lifeguards believe some film crews are throwing bait in the water in order to attract sharks and capture the creatures on camera, which experts say is a dangerous move.

LONG BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- Juvenile great white sharks swimming very close to shore at Southern California beaches has become a common sight lately, but lifeguards believe some film crews are throwing bait in the water in order to attract the predators, which experts say is a dangerous move.

Chris Lowe, director of California State University, Long Beach's shark lab, sounded the alarm after reports from Long Beach lifeguard officials that some are creating potentially dangerous conditions by chumming the water or throwing in fish bait to help capture the amazing creatures on camera.

"Chumming or trying to bait the sharks in puts other people at risk because it changes the sharks' behavior. It puts them in a feeding mode when they may not be in a feeding mode, and when they turn around and leave, those sharks are still in a feeding mode," he explained.

VIDEO: Several great white sharks swim near Long Beach shore

Great white sharks were caught on camera by two tugboats sailors who spotted the curious beasts near their boat off the coast of Long Beach.

Earlier this year, a swimmer was attacked off San Onofre State Beach. There are no reports that chumming has led to any attacks, but it is a growing concern, experts say.

MORE: Good Samaritans recall rescuing woman after San Onofre beach shark attack

Chumming is typically done far off shore and is not illegal. Officials said boaters can be cited for throwing material into the water so close to the beach.

Lowe said whether it's chumming or other antics to draw in sharks, the real danger is that it's changing a shark's behavior.

MORE: Man captures video of great white sharks off Long Beach; sightings on the rise in SoCal

"Dragging targets around or trying to feed them from drones are not good ideas because they change the shark's behavior," he said. "That can hurt the shark and potentially hurt somebody else."

Meantime, experts said the return of all the sharks in Southern California shows a great recovery in our marine ecosystem and said residents should get used to seeing them swimming close to shore.