Safety

Shark sightings remain sparse this summer along Santa Barbara County coast

Surf Photographer: 'I haven't seen a single shark'

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - Despite triple digit temperatures this weekend, there are some people who refuse to cool off in the ocean, in part, because of on-going shark sightings off the Santa Barbara County coast.

Jon Shafer, a native Santa Barbaran and surfer/photographer is keeping a close watch on the surf line up and down the Santa Barbara County coast.

"Around the time 'Jaws' came out, my obsession with white sharks developed," Shafer said. 

Shafer said he spent years hoping to catch a glimpse of a great white shark; In recent years, he's seen more than his fair share. He shared video of swimming sharks captured with his drone, cruising high above the surf off Summerland.

"The last few years we'd see one or two," Shafer said. "Nothing like the concentrations we're seeing today. One day, I counted 22 different animals off Padaro Lane."

"In one day?" Reporter Beth Farnsworth asked. 

"In one day," Shafer replied.

Shafer said that was back in March. And again in May.

"I have video footage and you'll see where the sharks are literally coming up into two feet of water," Shafer said. "When they're around, my opinion is, nobody is safe."

Now, with summer camps in session and more kids in the water, Shafer casually patrols the surf line out of concern, sometimes daily. 

"For the last two and a half to three weeks I haven't seen a single shark, which is good news for the swimmers and beachgoers," Shafer said. 

Shafer said he and shark experts have a theory about where the great whites go this time of year.

"There's a place out in the mid-Pacific about 1,000 miles out called 'The White Shark Cafe,'" Shafer said. "They've been doing tagging studies and following the sharks out there. They never realized there were sharks out there because there's no structure (reef or island), but apparently there's an ample food supply. They're staying deep."

Shafer said the spot is far out at sea, roughly half-way between Santa Barbara and Hawaii. 

The good news: Shafer believes the majority of the great whites spotted off our coast in recent months
are long gone. The bad news (if you can call it that): The sharks will likely make their way back if past summer trends hold true.  

"Probably within a few weeks I would expect we'll start seeing them again," Shafer said.

He said juvenile sharks can be just as dangerous as full-grown adults, as proven with past shark attacks involving surfers and seven to 10-foot great whites.

"Every year, these sharks are getting bigger and they seem to be the same ones coming back," Shafer said. "And who knows, a few years from now, we may have a real shark problem in Santa Barbara."


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