Be Careful at the Beach: Sharks in O.C. Waters

Great White Shark

Southern California waters have always been an enticement to locals and tourists alike; the waves are soothing, welcoming and cooling, and promise peaceful hours of swimming and surfing. But there is more hesitation seeping into swimmers minds as they dip their toes into the tide. Shark attacks have become a controversial topic this summer. Shark attacks have always appeared a distant possibility, but when a Great White attacked and seriously injured a Corona del Mar triathlete woman in May, it made us all reconsider our own susceptibility to such attacks.

Sunset Beach waters have closed multiple times in the last month, as up to five large sharks have been near the beach at one time. A group of Dana Point whale-watchers instead watched an inordinately large 10-foot great white swim lazily alongside their vessel. And, San Clemente and Huntington Beach piers have had enough sightings to post warning signs for surfers and swimmers: “Swim at own risk”.

Orange County also has its own resident crew of five juvenile great whites. Researchers and students as CSU Long Beach have been tracking and tagging the five great whites, all of whom appear to have settled in Orange County– potentially due to the high population of stingrays, especially near Surfside. The juveniles are about five feet long, and appear to know the waters of the coast of Southern California well. Great whites are born in the deep ocean and early abandoned by their mothers; they then usually head to warmer waters to feed.

In California, it is against the law to hunt a great white. A law implemented to conserve, it does have a flipside: the youthful great whites saved in the past have grown large, and are more numerous than ever. How can we balance conservation of the marine world, and protection of our families and loved ones? And, these sharks, which might in other years leave the waters, have decided to stay to enjoy the warm El Niño waters. Lifeguards scrutinize waters for sharks, and close beaches with less hesitation. This year holds the world record for shark attacks on humans, and in California, government officials are turning to other coastal countries to understand how to protect the public. In Australia, they too have restrictions on killing great whites. But in Western Australia, the region has seen a growing number of shark attacks, and is considering opening a shark fishery. Other tactics for shark repulsion and tracking include tagging sharks to attempt to know when they come into close proximity with swimmers, and shark netting to keep sharks from highly-populated swim areas. South Africa uses a flag system– a red flag means a shark has been spotted, but whose whereabouts are unknown. A white flag with a black shark means a shark has been spotted, and is still close enough to make waters unsafe.

Companies have even produced shark-deterrent products; wristbands which release an electromagnetic field which is supposed to interfere with the shark’s electrical sense. Another company also sells a surfboard leash equipped with the same technology. Whether this technology, tagging and tracking for automatic shark alerts, or shark nets are the answer remains to be seen. California has controversial and complicated environmental and safety issues to work through if this slew of shark sightings and attacks is to continue. We at BMR Insurance hope Orange County can continue to enjoy the summer at the beach, but with caution. Make sure to attend to lifeguards and other authority regarding shark sightings and safety. Call us today at (714) 838-1911; we’d be happy to talk about you and your family’s insurance coverage.
© Jagronick | – Great White Shark at Guadalupe Island

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