It’s been an exciting week in the Monterey area.

A great white shark, estimated at 18 feet long and 5,000 pounds, was spotted on Sunday by a scientist in a helicopter in the northern Monterey Bay. It was seen swimming near the ruins of the “Palo Alto” cement ship at Seacliff State Beach at Aptos. It was just one of 15 great white sharks that marine biologist Giancarlo Thomae counted while surveying the area from a helicopter last week.

The "Palo Alto" cement ship at Seacliff State Beach.  Photo credit: Don DeBold

The cement ship. Photo credit: Don DeBold

The shark sightings began last Tuesday, and immediately the NorCal Junior Lifeguard competition was cancelled by state park lifeguards. Junior Lifeguard teams of children and teens had come from as far as Folsom Lake and Monterey for the annual summer competition that includes paddling, swimming and running. About 300 kids had to exit the water and the competition has been postponed until a later date.

The rangers also put up a shark warning sign at the kiosk, near the park’s campground.

An arial view of the large white shark. Source: YouTube screenshot.

An arial view of the large white shark. Source: YouTube screenshot.

Most the sharks were within short range of shore at one of Monterey Bay’s most popular areas for paddle boarding, kayaking, swimming and fishing, and most of the great whites were “8 to 12 feet long,” their silhouettes clear as they swam near the surface. Large schools of mackerel migrated into the area last week, which may be one reason more marine mammals moved in to the area to feed, which in turn has attracted the big sharks.

Nobody was injured or bitten by any of the sharks.

For those who love sharks, this is a positive indication that there is a healthy population of sharks in the area. The sharks serve a vital role to keep populations of other fish healthy and in proper proportion for their ecosystem. Life within the oceans have enjoyed a relationship with sharks for about 450 million years. The growing demand for shark fin soup has increased the slaughter of sharks to such a great extent that many shark species are already nearing extinction.

With normal precautions, the recent arrival of sharks should not affect scuba diving in the Monterey Bay. Sharks do not hunt humans and it’s believed that most bites are accidental – either mistaking a human for their natural food source, or “testing” a possible food source. There were only 6 fatalities from shark attack in 2010 worldwide.

If your considering diving Monterey this week, the conditions are looking excellent. The swell today (Sunday) was 2.6 feet. Click here to view the current conditions, swell forecast, and weather for this coming week.

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