Lifeguards have shut down a stretch of ocean at Bolsa Chica and Sunset beaches after a 12-foot shark was spotted 100 feet from shore by the Huntington Beach police helicopter Friday morning.
The sighting comes just days after anglers caught and released an estimated eight-foot great white shark from the same area.
State Parks spokesman Kevin Pearsall said the closure was in effect from about Warner Avenue to near the lifeguard headquarters. The stretch of ocean managed by Huntington city lifeguards – along Sunset Beach to Anderson Street – is also closed.
The area will be shut down for 24 hours, and will reopen at about 10:45 a.m. Saturday if there are no further sightings.
The area is not far from where a group of juvenile great whites were hanging around in 2015.
“We thought they left, we haven’t heard of them for the past two years,” Pearsall said.
He said this is the first time this portion of State Beach has been closed in more than a year.
Signs were being posted and lifeguards on personal watercrafts were alerting the 25 or so surfers out in the water that they needed to exit the ocean. Pearsall warned ocean users to be cautious in the surrounding areas as well.
“No one can figure out the method and madness of a great white,” he said. “We have a credible sighting. Proceed with caution.”
Huntington Beach Marine Safety Lt. Claude Panis said given the recent shark activity in the area, he asked the police helicopter to do a fly over the ocean to see if there were any sharks in the area.
There was a juvenile, about 7-foot, spotted off of Brookhurst Street. When the helicopter traveled north to Warner Avenue, a shark in the 12-foot range was spotted.
“Because of the size, we plug it into our policy,” Panis said.
A shark between 11- and 14-foot requires an ocean closure.
Though the shark was spotted in the State Beach area, a stretch one mile from the sighting near Warner on city beach will also be closed, to Anderson Street, Panis said.
“The water was closed, but the beach is still open. People can recreate on the sand,” he said.
There’s been a flurry of great white activity in the area in recent weeks. In addition to the shark caught off Sunset Beach, two great whites have been hooked, and released, at the Huntington Beach Pier.
Great white sharks are a protected species and illegal to catch.
Shark expert Chris Lowe, who runs CSULB’s Shark Lab, said he’s not surprised to hear about the 12-footer.
“We know that shark numbers are increasing and that environmental conditions are acceptable for larger juvenile white sharks in the winter,” he said. “The question is – are there adequate food resources for them here at this time of year or are they just passing through? As usual, we have a lot more questions than answers. Unfortunately, it is so hard to find funding to do this research.”
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