Ho hum, Great Whites summering in Manhattan Beach
Juvenile great white sharks appear to be taking up residence in Manhattan Beach for the second summer in a row.
“If this summer is like last summer they should be here through fall when they head south. It’s kind of neat, like having the killer whales here during the holidays,” Manhattan Beach Roundhouse Aquarium co-director Eric Martin said Thursday, following multiple reports of juvenile great white shark sightings north of the Manhattan Beach pier. Martin said he saw one near the pier on Monday.
On Tuesday, after hearing reports from fellow surfers of a great white in the water in front of his home at 44th Street in Manhattan, photographer Gus McConnell went down to the beach with his surfboard, masks, snorkel and Pentax underwater camera.
After failing to find a shark at 44th Street, McConnell paddled south seven blocks to Rosecrans Avenue. There he saw a five- to six-foot shark and took several photos of it. But the photos weren’t clear because of poor water visibility and he quickly lost sight of the shark.
“So, I paddled back to 44th Street and got lucky. A five- to six-foot shark was circling the surfers, not more than 25 yards from shore. The surf was small,” McConnell said.
McConnell paddled after the shark with his left arm while holding his Pentax under water and shooting with his right arm.
“The surfers were looking at me that I was crazy, but the shark was acting docile. If I could have reached down I could have touched him, but I didn’t want to push my luck.”
Martin confirmed that the sharks in McConnell’s photos were great whites. He said the juvenileslike the area because they are safer near shore and there is an amply supply of rays, mackerel and sardines for them to feed on.
Sharks eat fish and not mammals until they mature. Martin said adult sharks stay further out to sea because that’s where their food supply is.
Juvenile great whites don’t pose a threat to swimmers, he said, but cautioned that stand-up paddlers need to be careful not to antagonize the sharks.
“We’re all afraid a shark’s going to turn on a stand-up paddler who’s chasing it and take a bite out of the paddler’s board. Then the shark’s going to portrayed as the bad guy,” Martin said.
He added that marine biologists have similar concerns about stand-up paddler pursuing whales and getting clocked by a whale’s fluke.
Wednesday afternoon McConnell returned to Manhattan Beach aboard friend Dave Schaefer’s 28-foot Coronado sailboat. Schaefer is a Coast Guard-licensed captain and former firefighter who owns Don’t Just Surf, which offers instruction in waterman activities.
McConnell said they anchored about 200 yards off of Marine Street after seeing another juvenile great white.
“I took photos of it for about 20 minutes while it cruised around the boat. When he left we went stand-up paddling at 44th Street and saw another juvenile great white,” McConnell said. Again on Thursday, McConnell and Schaefer saw a shark at 44th Street while stand-up paddling. McConnell noted that he thought it unlikely that his five sightings in three days were of the same shark,
A lifeguard who saw two great whites from his tower about the same time on Wednesday afternoon paddled out to advise surfers of the shark’s presence. Most of the surfers continued surfing. ER