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Researchers Say Great White Sharks Continue To Grow In Numbers Along Santa Barbara County Coastline


Tourists aren’t the only ones from outside of Santa Barbara County that like to visit the region’s scenic coastline. Researchers say it’s become am increasingly popular are for Great White Sharks.

One of the world’s leading researchers on Great Whites says while there are still many mysteries surrounding the massive creatures, we’re starting to fill in some of the blanks.

Dr. Chris Lowe heads the Cal State Long Beach Shark Lab, one of the leading research facilities for Great Whites. Lowe is involved in efforts to learn more about Great Whites by tracking their movements.

One of the findings is that the sharks might be finding the Santa Barbara County coastline an attractive place to live. Lowe says marine protections have increased the population of mammals Great Whites love to eat, and having a dependable year round source of food makes the region an attractive place for the predators to live. Lowe says we need more data to determine how much time the Great Whites may be spending off the Santa Barbara County coast, and in fact, if some might be staying in the region.

The researcher says another interesting question related to Great Whites off the California Coast is how much warmer than average ocean water temperatures are affecting where they are living. He says the sharks have been turning up in some areas at unusual times of year, with warmer water believed to be responsible for the shift.

Lowe’s Shark Lab has tagged some 45 sharks for tracking, and is working with researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and Stanford.  He says one of the big questions they hope to answer is where Great Whites give birth. The Southern California coastline is popular with the juvenile sharks, but Lowe says we normally don’t see the pregnant mothers in the region.

The researcher says when you look at how many people use California's beaches, and the fact there appears to be more sharks than ever in the region, it shows the shark attack fears are greatly overblown. Lowe has always maintained that through movies like "Jaws," and some real-life media coverage Great Whites have gotten a bad, and unwarranted rap as being predatory towards humans.

The resesearch is one of the speakers at a sold out Santa Barbara Maritime Museum event on Thursday.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.