Beachgoers were called out of the water near Los Angeles on Sunday after at least three sharks, estimated to be between 10 and 12 feet long, were seen roaming offshore, authorities said.
An Orange County Sheriff’s Department helicopter first spotted the sharks off Sunset Beach around 2 p.m. After the Huntington Beach Police Department was notified and the sharks were confirmed to be in the surf zone, portions of the shore were immediately closed, the Orange County Register reported.
“They were described as being over 8 feet in length, in fact, they said 10 to 12 feet,” Lt. Claude Panis of the Huntington Beach Fire Department told KABC News. “For that reason, our response is what we call a level four response. We go ahead and post signs and we clear the water out, about a mile in each direction.”
Panis said the closure is expected to last until at least Monday morning.
“We’re going to re-evaluate tomorrow,” he told KTLA, “and if it’s clear we’ll reopen the water.”
The sighting came a week after a 52-year-old woman was attacked by a shark off Corona del Mar State Beach, about 15 miles south of Sunset Beach.
The shark responsible was believed to be a great white measuring more than 10 feet in length, Chris Lowe, head of the Shark Lab at Cal State Long Beach, told the Los Angeles Times. The swimmer is recovering after undergoing surgery.
Shark sightings aren’t unusual in the Southern California area, but some surfers are getting spooked.
“(The sharks) are getting bigger and changing in behavior. At what point do they do what the one in Corona del Mar did? At what point does one want to take a little taste to investigate?” former professional surfer Jodie Nelson recently told the Orange County Register. “Do I surf anyway and hope they don’t want anything to do with me? I don’t know anymore.”
Researchers at the Shark Lab attributed the sharks’ presence to warm waters brought by El Niño. Lowe, speaking to the Register, said juvenile sharks would ordinarily leave the area during the colder winter months.
In April, a Huntington Beach surfer captured a great white shark jumping out of the water on his GoPro camera.
“Right away, both of us knew what we were seeing,” surfer Drew Palumbo, who captured the leap with his friend Ben Slayback, told CBS LA at the time.
“I said it’s time to go,” Slayback added. “No playing around.”
California has had the third-most shark attacks in the country, at 116, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History’s International Shark Attack File, which tracks unprovoked incidents since the early 1800s. That figure places it behind Hawaii’s 143 and Florida’s 748.
Though those statistics could be jolting, you’re more likely to be killed by lightning, drowning, bicycling or even collapsing sand than by a shark, according to the shark attack file.
“Shark attack trauma is also less common than such beach-related injuries as spinal damage, dehydration, jellyfish and stingray stings and sunburn,” according to the International Shark Attack File. “Indeed, many more sutures are expended on sea shell lacerations of the feet than on shark bites!”
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