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Great white shark populations are growing, moving into new areas

Experts say it could disrupt ocean’s food chain, alter ecosystem
Posted at 2:32 PM, Aug 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-20 16:35:23-04

As an excessive heat warning hits Southern California, beachgoers are staying onshore, despite the high temperatures.

“My wife was a little freaked out,” said local surfer Craig Neil. “She sent me a text and said she’s getting the kids out of the water.”

Out of the water because of what’s lurking inside the section of the Pacific Ocean.

“We had a confirmed shark sighting,” said another surfer.

A 12-foot great white shark spotted just off the San Clemente Pier, something locals say is happening more often.

“It seems fairly normal here,” Neil said. “There’s usually shark sightings every month or two at least.”

Now a new study is showing the number of great white sharks is rising off the California coast.

“The simple reason for that is we’ve done a better job of protecting them,” said Chris Lowe a professor of marine biology and the director of the Shark Lab at California State University, Long Beach. “We’ve done a better job managing our fisheries and believe it or not, the water has gotten cleaner over the last 40 years."

Lowe and his team have spent the past several years tracking these aquatic predators, saying while they are seeing more sharks in the water, they’re not seeing more attacks.

“So, that’s all good news but we just have to learn ways to be better guests in somebody else’s home,” he said.

A home with a now expanding zip code with more great white sharks moving up the coast.

“Now we’re starting to see them in places off Monterey, a place where we hadn’t seen them before and this is largely due to the oceans getting warmer,” Lowe said.

Lowe says this change in temperature is being seen around the world, which is something he believes will cause more great white sharks to relocate to colder waters, which could disrupt the ocean’s food chain and also alter the ecosystem.

“If they get moved to a location where there’s less food, they’re just not going to do very well,” he said. “In fact, their populations may start to go down or they start to feed on something they never fed on before.”

Back on the beach, stranded surfers like Neil stare at closure signs waiting for lifeguards to reopen the water, saying the ocean is the shark’s turf and that we’re just guests swimming in it.