SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Marine biology experts with the Shark Lab at Cal State University Long Beach (CSULB) confirm why local residents have seen an uptick in great white shark sightings near shore in recent years. And, we can expect the numbers to continue growing. For now.
"We've, in the last few years, been focusing a lot of effort off the Santa Barbara coast because there have been an aggregation of juvenile white sharks that has formed that has been persistent over the last few years," said Dr. Chris Lowe. "Now, we've seen this along many stretches of the California coastline. It's typical nursery habitat and what we found is that sharks shift back and forth between what we call 'nursery hot spots.' And right now off the coast of Santa Barbara, there appears to be a nursery hot spot."
Lowe, a professor of Marine Biology and Shark Lab director, shared new findings Thursday with the News Channel 3-12 team.
On Wednesday, a group of his research students installed a live, shark-tracking buoy in waters off Padaro Beach. The underwater acoustic transmitter monitors white sharks that were previously tagged.
The Shark Lab team has spent the past 16 years researching great whites off California's coast.
Emily Spurgeon, one of the researchers, said based on their telemetry recordings, the team detected more than 13 great whites near shore Wednesday and, spotted one with their drone.
Lowe said Santa Barbara's proximity to the northern Channel Islands makes the area unique.
"Having worked along the Southern California coastline for almost 30 years, I can tell you I've never seen more white sharks than we have in recent years. So, the numbers appear to be going up," said Lowe.
Lowe zeroed in on two key things that are are boosting local shark numbers: seals, seal lions, northern elephant seals and other marine mammal food sources, especially near near Point Conception. And, California state protection of white sharks implemented in 1994.