Young Great White Sharks Are Flocking to the California Coast

How dangerous that is remains to be seen

Cue the "Jaws" theme.
Marcelo Cidrack/Unsplash

As the weather grows warmer, more and more people are heading to the coastal waters of California. And why not? The beaches are scenic, the water is clean and there’s a vibrant social scene there. And as it goes for humans, so too is this the case for great white sharks, which are also venturing out of their usual habitats and up the coast, reaching the waters around San Francisco.

That’s one of the takeaways from a new article by Scott Wilson in The Washington Post. And before you swear off heading into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California ever again, it’s worth mentioning that these sharks are juveniles — in other words, they’re closer to human-sized than not, and they don’t show any interest in devouring people.

It’s worth mentioning here that there’s plenty of evidence that humans and great white sharks coexist peacefully more often than not — which doesn’t mean you should necessarily run out and hug a fully-grown great white shark, but it does suggest that this is a bit less worrisome than it looks on paper.

What’s causing the sharks to head north? A combination of warming waters and preservation efforts. Chris Lowe of California State University Long Beach’s Shark Lab described the situation at hand succinctly. “White sharks right now are beneficiaries of climate change,” Lowe said.

As the article points out, one of the tricky things about juvenile great white sharks is that they’re still figuring out their eating habits — which has led to, for example, the young sharks biting otters who they think might be far tastier seals. As scientists continue to monitor the sharks’ behavior, swimmers and surfers should have a better sense of what to expect from their new aquatic neighbors when they head into the water.

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