Shark sightings prompt closure of more SoCal beaches

An aerial sighting of more than two dozen six- to 10-foot sharks between Cotton’s Point and Capistrano Beach on Sunday closed San Clemente city beaches for the rest of the day.

The sighting from an Orange County Sheriff’s Department helicopter occurred shortly before 4 p.m., according to Nick Giugni, a marine safety officer with San Clemente City Lifeguard Department. Specifically, 12 sharks were seen 25 to 100 yards off North Beach.

“That’s probably the most so far,” said Giugni, putting Sunday’s sighting into the context of weekly to daily shark reports since early spring.

The lifeguard department first issued a four-hour closure of city beaches at 10:30 a.m. Sunday after a sighting of an eight to nine-foot shark at the end of San Clemente Pier. Then, at 1 p.m., the department received another sighting report of a six to seven-foot shark, also off the pier.

Since the second one was shorter than eight feet, marine safety officers downgraded the closure to a warning and reopened the water for beachgoers to swim at their own risk. But with the sheriff’s helicopter spotting about 25 sharks, with a dozen grouped together, officers reestablished the closure in the afternoon through the reevaluation Monday at 8 a.m.

“If there’s one in the eight (foot) plus range, we usually close beaches for at least four hours, but this closure we’re going to keep it for the remainder of the day,” Giugni said. “We can’t confirm it’s going to be reopened, but we will reevaluate and make the safest call.”

With elevated shark activity, marine safety officers recommend abiding by postings to stay out of the water. Even with warnings and advisories, there is a risk, Giugni said.

Capistrano Beach and Shorecliffs Beach have been under a shark advisory for about two weeks, said Brad Herzog, a captain for OC Lifeguards.

Earlier this month, Capistrano Beach was closed May 10 after an Orange County sheriff’s helicopter spotted 15 great white sharks swimming near paddleboarders.

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