Record number of shark attacks on sea otters - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Record number of shark attacks on sea otters

Posted: Updated:

(CBS 8) - It's not something we are seeing just yet off our shores -- sea otters becoming victims of shark attacks. The spike in incidents along the central coast is also raising concerns here in San Diego.

The Golden State's long-embattled sea otters are now threatened by what appears to be an increased presence of predatory great white sharks off the central coast.

"The sharks are investigating that silhouette, going up, biting it. It's not their preferred prey and they let it go and move on. Unfortunately the otters usually die because of that bite," Mike Harris of the state Department of Fish and Game said.

The majority of the carcasses have been found in the Morro Bay-Pismo Beach area. Scientists collected 19 injured or dead otters with signs of shark bites in August. Already this month, they've found seven. The 10-year average for August is seven, and for September, six.

"Some of us are speculating that maybe the central coast area where the sharks are transitioning and starting to feed on marine mammals, going after those penipeds that have thick blubber layers, high caloric value. Sea otters do not have that blubber layer," Harris said.

Researchers also believe the increase in shark-bitten otters may be because of cooler than average ocean temperatures from an unusually mild summer, creating an ideal condition for white sharks.

"The pattern we see on shark-bitten sea otters is more of a single bite. No evidence of a secondary bite, no soft tissue removed," Harris said.

There are no population estimates for great whites and research on them is fairly limited. And while the creatures typically do not prey upon humans, ocean swimmers are encouraged to be aware of their presence.

According to the Department of Fish and Game, since 1950 California has had 95 white shark attacks with only 11 fatalities.

"If you're in the water, pay attention to what's going on around you. If there are mammals in the area, if there's a feeding frenzy, bird activity, take this knowledge and make your own decisions on whether you want to stay in the water," Harris said.

Reports of great white shark sightings have gone up this year, but local lifeguards tell news 8 they suspect many of those sightings are actually dolphins, not sharks.

Powered by Frankly
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2018 KFMB-TV. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices.