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Shark Week: Southern California's Recent Sightings

'Shark Week' reminds us of our endless fascination with the iconic predator, and there seems to be more sharks in our local waters than ever before, Patch fishing columnist reports.

Brian Young from the California Department of Fish and Game Department was on the Huntington Beach Pier about 11 a.m. Saturday for the annual Huck Finn Fishing Derby when he saw a large image flash just below about a dozen surfers.

"Did you see that?" he asked. "It was a shark; at least six feet long."

Young was pretty convinced it was a relatively harmless leopard shark but he continued to peer down through the water just in case he had misidentified the creature.

On Thursday,  that was estimated to be over 18 feet.

"It was definitely a big enough shark to knock the boat over," Schwarcz said. As his friend videotaped the mammoth shark, it took a bite or two out of the motor and began circling the boat. Schwarcz decided he had had enough of his sightseeing and headed back to port.

Another great white shark chomped a fish right off an angler's fishing line in front of several tourists on the Gaviota State Park Pier this week. For three days, Santa Barbara city officials staked "shark warning" signs on the beaches after a great white was reported sighted among pier pilings.Hundreds of leopard sharks moved into the shallows off La Jolla and could be seen just below swimmers and surfers.

There seems to be more sharks in our local waters than ever before. The sea lion population explosion has provided great whites with a steady food supply. Southern California beaches are also nursery grounds for the great white. The smaller sharks feed mostly on sharks, rays and halibut and other coastal species.

The truth about sharks

We are fascinated by sharks and the truth is that, whether we want to know it or not, they are all around us. Sharks have been swimming the world’s oceans for more than 400 million years and play an essential part in maintaining the health of our oceans. There are more than 350 different kinds of sharks and while we may be terrified by these apex predators, the fact is that you are 1,000 times more likely to drown in the sea than to be bitten by a shark. Or to put it another way, the chance of being killed by a shark is one in 300 million. The chance of being killed by airplane parts falling from the sky is one in 10 million.

Noted shark expert Patric Douglas says that millions of years of evolution have made sharks great hunters and extremely adept at attacking their targeted prey.

"In most cases, when sharks attack human beings, they have made a mistake," said Douglas.

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