Shark expert likens Point Conception to the Farallon Islands for great white sharks

Domeier: "I saw one that made my knees buckle"

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - If you're fascinated by sharks and what's happening in local waters, you'll be interested to hear what a renown expert has discovered off the Santa Barbara County coast.

NewsChannel 3 had the chance to Skype with Dr. Micheal Domeier on Thursday to speak about his great white shark tagging research project in waters off Vandenberg Air Force Base.

"A lot of people think I'm a shark researcher," said Domeier, Director of the Marine Conservation Science Institute in Hawaii. "I'm not really a shark researcher, I'm a white shark researcher!"

Domeier is on a quest to find the "sharkiest" waters around. And guess what? He said he's found a nice, big patch off the coast of Point Conception.

"It sounds like you saw a couple of sharks that you were really impressed by the size," NewsChannel 3's Beth Farnsworth asked Domeier. "How big were they?"

"Yeah. Last year I saw one that made my knees buckle," Domeier laughed. "Enormous! I've seen two sharks in my life that have just been Oh my God! You know, I didn't even know they got that big."

Domeier has spent the past three years researching the adult great white shark population, south of Surf Beach. He said he's learned two key things: One, they (pregnant females) start arriving as early as April -- Domeier said the males arrive later, roughly in August -- and the majority of both males and females stay around until roughly mid-December before heading into deep, offshore water toward Hawaii.

Domeier also confirmed that the adults are drawn to waters off our coast by a newly established colony of elephant seals -- their preferred prey -- nestled below the steep cliffs along Vandenberg Air Force Base.

"There are a lot of adults off the San Francisco Bay area, Farallon Islands and Ano Nuevo, Domeier said. "This [Point Conception] is a site that compares to that."

When the weather's good, chances are Domeier's off the local coast, catching, tagging and releasing adult great white sharks.

"We put one on the dorsal fin that will transmit a signal into space whenever the shark is thinning at the surface," Domerier said. "Then, we put a second tag on, it's more like a laptop and it records information."

The man who's spent 20 years studying the mega great whites off Guadalupe Island has a message for locals.

"I think as the population increases, we need to know where the real concentrations are and be really careful of those times of the year. You know, going surfing at Surf Beach in October, I wouldn't do it." 

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