SoCal's great white sharks are much closer to you than you think, groundbreaking report finds

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Monday, June 5, 2023
Sharks are much closer to you in ocean than you think, report finds
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A new study on Great White Sharks by the Cal State Long Beach Shark Lab revealed the marine predators often come shockingly close to people in the ocean.

LONG BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- A new study on Great White Sharks by the Cal State Long Beach Shark Lab revealed the marine predators often come shockingly close to people in the ocean.

The study tried to figure out how safe swimmers, surfers and paddle boarders are when they go into the water. And the results are eye-opening.

"The sharks are there. They were swimming under surfers, and didn't ever change their trajectory swing right next to people and nothing happened," said Patrick Rex, a graduate student and researcher at Cal State Long Beach's shark lab, who spent two years studying Southern California white sharks from the air using drones.

The drones gave Rex a bird's-eye view of shark's behavior and encounters with humans.

The images are shocking: great white sharks swimming right next to surfers and swimmers, who often are unaware of their close encounter.

"This is a way we can look at people and sharks behaving naturally in their states it's really been an amazing tool and effective tool," said Rex.

The study looked at 26 beaches along Southern California and found great white sharks were mainly focused at two hotspots so-called aggregation sites at Del Mar and Carpinteria.

At the two hotspots, Rex found that people in the ocean at these aggregation sites are close to sharks 98% of the time. Sometimes just yards away.

Rex found white sharks spend more than half of their time within 110 yards of the wave break. Surfers and paddle borders with the closest proximity.

"Juvenile white sharks use our beaches as a nursery. It's safe, has lots of food that's easy to catch and the water is warm but that also puts them in close proximity to people using the ocean for recreation," said Chris Lowe, the director of CSULB's Shark Lab.

Here's another shocking find: despite the increased encounters, Rex found no increase in bites.

"The really big take away is that when these aggregation show up the sharks will be there and you'll be there and largely they are not looking at you as prey," said Rex.

The study confirmed what researchers have long believed: as long as you leave the sharks alone, they'll leave you alone.

"All these animals, they're looking for safety, and if they feel threatened, they will defend themselves like all animals will. So we highly encourage people to do their best to ignore them. Appreciate the fact that they're there. This is their home, be a good guest," said Lowe.