By Miriam Raftery
September 3, 2013 (San Diego) – Yesterday a local scanner tracking service reported several apparent shark sightings off Torrey Pines Beach. In the interest of keeping readers safe we posted the report promptly with no way to obtain confirmation on the holiday weekend.
ECM today has reached both state and city lifeguards who say they are unaware of any reports. It now appears our usually credible source was inaccurate and we regret the error.
We could not get verification prior to posting our initial report on Labor Day evening when we were simultaneously reporting on a live shooter on Mt Helix near my own home office, flash flooding in the backcountry, a wildfire in La Posta and additional weather-related incidents. This story was posted by a bleary-eyed editor in the early pre-dawn hours who got no sleep due to the shooting incident here including eight wakeup phone calls from emergency authorities that continued until 3:30 a.m.
For those interested in the history of shark attacks in our area and California overall, below are some fascinating facts.
View a video of a great white shark spotted in 2011 off Torrey Pines estimated at 10 to 12 feet long. http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7379422n .
Great white shark attacks have been linked to fatalities off local beaches in the past. The large predators have been protected in California for a decade and while still unusual locally, have been seen more frequently here in recent years.
In April 2008, a triathlete swimmer was killed by a great white shark off Solana Beach. In May 2013, the body of a surfer off Pacific Beach was found to have been attacked by a shark, though it’s believed he died of drowning. In April 1994, a swimmer off La Jolla was killed by a Great white shark, the Medical Examiner ruled, though there is some dispute over whether the shark attacked her before or after she died. Back in 1959, a man free-diving for abalone off La Jolla was swallowed whole by a Great white shark, according to several witnesses.
Great white sharks have typically been more common off waters of Northern California, where they have been linked to several deaths. But an increase in sea lion populations locally – the favorite prey of Great white sharks, may be contributing to increased shark sightings locally. Great white shark sightings have caused several beach closures in recent years and have also been responsible for some non-fatal attacks.
Hunting great white sharks has been prohibited in California since 1993. The California Department of Fish and Game is currently considering a petition to add great white sharks to the state’s endangered species list, since in other parts of the world, hunting sharks for trophies and fins as decimated populations.
Other shark fatalities have occurred farther north along California’s coast, all by great white sharks.
Since 1950, there have been 101 attacks by sharks on human’s in California waters, of which 17 have been fatal, according to the California Department of Fish and Game: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/whiteshark.asp
Here is the list of fatalities, excluding the San Diego fatal attacks described above. All California fatalities were the result of great white sharks.
October 2012: Surfer fatally attacked off Santa Barbara shore at Surf Beach
October 2010: Bodyboarder at Santa Barbara’s Surf Beach died after shark tore his leg off
August 2004: Abalone diver off Mendocino was decapitated and killed by great white shark
August 2003: Swimmer attacked off Avila Beach in San Luis Obispo County
December 1994: Diver killed off San Miguel Island
April 1994: La Jolla swimmer killed by great white shark, Medical Examiner ruled, though some law enforcement representatives theorized she may have been murdered and dumped in the ocean. Her leg had been bitten off.
January 1989: A great white shark killed a kayaker off Malibu and is presumed to have killed her boyfriend, too; his body was never found.
September 1984: Abalone diver killed near Santa Cruz
December 1981: Surfer fatally attacked off Monterey
May 1959: A swimmer was killed in less than 15 feet of water off Baker Beach in San Francisco
April 1957: A swimmer far offshore at Atascadero Beach, Morro Bay was killed by a great white shark
December 1952: Great white shark killed a swimmer was killed near Lover’s Point, Pacific Grove.
Shark attack have been more common in Hawaii and Florida, where fatalities involved not only great white sharks, but also bull sharks, tiger sharks, and oceanic whitetip sharks.
Some shark attacks are believed to be cases of mistaken identity, with sharks attracted by divers in wetsuits and fins resembling seals or sea lions.