Great white shark spotted off Aptos beaches

(Specialized Helicopters/Facebook)
July 20, 2012 1:32:30 AM PDT
Shark warnings are up along the Santa Cruz County coastline after a 14-foot great white shark was spotted Thursday in Aptos about 20 yards out near Seascape and Rio Del Mar beaches.

Nader Sidhom is a kayak fisherman, but Thursday he was fishing from the beach.

"I'm less inclined to go kayak fishing out here these days," he said.

The reason -- a great white shark swimming just off shore.

Sidhom worries it could be the same shark that attacked a kayaker off Pleasure Point two weeks ago.

"He was in the zone where people swim, surf and play," he said.

Helicopter pilot Chris Gulate spotted the shark and took photos.

"He's huge; he's 14, 15, I thought he was 18 or so feet at first, as big as this aircraft," Gulate said.

He reported the sighting and sheriff's deputies posted a warning, much to some visitors' surprise.

"First time we ever had a shark sighting here, ever that I can remember and I've been coming here 30 years," Betty Fitzwater

But it's not putting a damper on Fitzwater's family vacation. In fact, she's excited about it.

"I think it'd be awesome to see him up close," she said.

Though it may be surprising to beachgoers, experts say there is actually nothing unusual about a great white swimming around this close to shore, especially at this time of year.

"The sharks are here, seasonally, periodically, and they're common," Pelagic Shark Research Foundation spokesperson Sean Van Sommerman said. "I would characterize it as no different from seeing a bear at Yellowstone Park."

But Sommerman says the warning went out because the shark was lingering near the shore instead of moving along. He has a plan to keep an eye on it.

"This particular shark had a scarred tail fin, which was recognizable, so if we see it again this season or in the future, we'll be able to recognize this as an individual," he said.

They might even tag it with a radio transmitter so they can warn people if it returns.


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