David Rosenfeld

Great white shark chomps sea lion off Palos Verdes coast

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Roundhouse Aquarium co-director Eric Martin snapped this shot of a white shark last July. Photo courtesy of Roundhouse Aquarium

Roundhouse Aquarium co-director Eric Martin snapped this shot of a juvenile white shark last July. Photo courtesy of Roundhouse Aquarium

In more than 23 years of running Harbor Breeze Cruises, Dan Salas said he’s never seen the ocean off the coast of Palos Verdes teaming with as much sea life as it is now.

“It’s out of control right now,” said Salas over the phone with excitement. “The last two weeks have just been incredible – the best I’ve ever seen.”

Around 3:30 pm on Monday Salas witnessed something extraordinary. He and a local NBC film crew saw an 18-foot great white shark chomp a 200-pound sea lion in half with one bite. On board his private boat, the group first started watching a giant blue whale when they saw a splash from a sea lion right next to it.

“We thought the sea lion was playing with the blue whale, but there was a great white chasing him and he was actually trying to hide under the blue whale,” Salas said. “Then just as fast as you can blink your eyes this great white shark comes flying out of the water like in National Geographic.”

The attack occurred about 300 feet off Trump National Golf Course. Salas said the conditions in the ocean right now between Point Fermin and Point Vicente are perfect to support abundant sea life.

“The water is about 67 degrees,” he said. “It’s clean, it’s clear, it’s got a lot of plankton. There’s anchovies, sardines, squid, lots of krill. It’s just been incredible.”

Headquartered in Palos Verdes, Harbor Breeze Cruises runs six boats every day of the year except Christmas out of Long Beach’s Aquarium of the Pacific. On Monday, its 100-passenger catamaran had just left the area when the shark appeared. The Redondo Voyager also runs daily cruises to the same area.

Salas said the amount of sea life is only expected to improve as the whale migration season extends until October.

Juvenile great white sharks have been increasingly seen near shore locally over the past year or so, but they rarely exceed six or eight feet in length. The 18-foot shark was almost certainly an adult. For more on the life of sharks in our local waters see last week’s cover story Great White Hype. 

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