Marine Science professor says odds of getting bitten by a great white are slim despite sightings

UCSB marine scientist reacts to increase in great white sightings

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - Evidence of great white sightings off the Santa Barbara County coastline has led to warning signs on at least four beaches from Goleta to Carpinteria.

University of California, Santa Barbara professor Douglas McCauley said, " Marine scientists are a little unsure of exactly what's happening this year."

McCauley studied sharks as part of his doctoral degree.

He said most of great whites spotted off the coast have been about 4-7 feet.

"They don't even have the right teeth to feed on mammals. They don't have serrated teeth an adult needs to effectively make a dinner out of a marine mammal, so these sharks have baby white shark teeth. Now that doesn't mean we should go out there and go paddleboarding and jump in the water and give them a big hug, these are still wild animals," said McCauley.

Scientists credit the banning of gill nets for protecting the young great white population.

McCauley said the odds of a surfer getting bitten by a great white is one in 17 million.

"We see a fair number of attacks, but more people are going into the water," said McCauley.  

McCauley said movies such as Jaws mischaracterize great whites.

Francesa Nash and her friend Rose Lebow spotted a young great white in the water off Santa Clause Beach in Carpinteria around noon on Saturday.

Nash used a GoPro to video the shark encounter.

"I was mainly excited to see one I think they are really beautiful creatures." said Nash.

Nash is studying marine science at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

Professor McCauley said Nash has the right attitude.

"This is a special thing, we are talking about an ancient animal that is powerful and awe-inspiring and for me the chance to get in the water and share space with them or have the rare opportunity to see them is pretty amazing and that is just evidence that we are doing a good job conserving our coast in California," said McCauley.

McCauley is involved with the Benioff Ocean Initiative at UCSB.

The initiative is a collaboration between marine scientists, technology and the ocean community.

To learn more visit boi.ucsb.edu.

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