Shark Attacks are increasing globally, according to a study. But how frequent are they in California?

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife reports that shark sightings resume with the arrival of summer.

Last year, the number of unprovoked shark attacks climbed worldwide, with over half of the instances occurring in U.S. waters, the University of Florida’s International Shark File, a comprehensive database of global shark attacks, revealed in February.

Two of the 36 shark attacks that occurred in the US were fatal, one of them being in California.

What is the frequency of shark attacks in California?

Here’s what reporters with the community-driven series “How to California” discovered to assist readers in navigating life in the Golden State.

How frequently do shark attacks occur along the coast of California?

As per the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, “human bite incidents involving sharks are extremely uncommon in California.”

“While human beach use and ocean activities have greatly increased due to the growing population and greater popularity of surfing, swimming, and scuba diving, shark incidents have not increased proportionally,” according to the agency.

As of June, 29 shark-related events had occurred in California since 2020, based on the most recent departmental data. Twelve of these occurrences resulted in no injuries at all, fourteen caused non-fatal injuries, and three caused fatalities.

There is a substantial overlap between regions frequented by people and sharks, according to research conducted in 2023 by the California State University, Long Beach Shark Lab.

Over 1,500 drone surveys were carried out by researchers between 2019 and 2021 on 26 different Southern California beaches, spanning from Santa Barbara to San Diego.

The study found that on 97% of the surveyed days, humans saw sharks at observed places.

Where off the coast of California have shark sightings occurred?

Sharks spend over half of their lives within 110 yards of the wave break—the spot in the water where a wave breaks and becomes a barreling wave—according to research from the CSU Long Beach Shark Lab.

The study found that contacts between sharks and humans were most common in beaches in the counties of Santa Barbara and San Diego.

According to study specialist Emily Spurgeon, “what’s really special about Southern California in particular is that it contains a lot of nursery areas for the juvenile white sharks,” she stated to The Tribune in San Luis Obispo about 2023.

More white shark, or great white, breeding habitats will be available as a result of rising water temperatures.

“We’re now seeing aggregations and nursery sites in Monterey and possibly the Central Coast,” Spurgeon stated.

When was California’s most recent fatal shark attack?

Safety issues have increased due to the increasing number of white sharks and the increased public use of beaches for recreation.

A guy was killed by a great white shark attack in 2021 while bodyboarding on Christmas Eve in Morro Bay.

A man swimming off Point Reyes National Seashore was bit by a shark in October, and the shark hauled the victim under, probably killing him.

More recently, in May, at a beach in Southern California, a surfer narrowly avoided injury when a shark knocked him off his board.

How might interactions with sharks be avoided?

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife states that staying out of the water is the only way to prevent interacting with sharks.

“Swimming in areas where sharks have been observed or where white sharks have been seen feeding is not recommended,” according to the agency.

The majority of white shark attacks happen at the surface, although divers have also had underwater encounters, according to the agency. Scientists assert that the majority of shark contacts, however, result from exploratory bites made by sharks as they study unfamiliar objects, such as surf boards and kayaks, rather than from “predatory attempts.”

Furthermore, the government stated that sharks might confuse people for their typical prey, which includes seals and sea lions.

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