Great white shark sightings in Southern California have been going viral throughout the spring and summer.
In one viral encounter in Orange County, an Orange County sheriff’s helicopter pilot announced that “You are paddleboarding next to approximately 15 great white sharks.”
According to the Long Beach Press Telegram, the increased amount of great white shark sightings might not be a mere coincidence. Long Beach lifeguard officials believe that film crews are throwing fish or bait near shore to attract sharks, a practice known as “chumming.”
They’re chumming to get video footage of the sharks, according to the Press-Telegram.
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With more people going to the beach during the summer, the concern is that swimmers could have unpleasant and possibly dangerous encounters with sharks who are lured to shore with bait.
According to the Press-Telegram, some film crews are doing the chumming as close as 100 yards to shore.
“I know everybody wants the picture, but you put people’s lives at risk,” Jake Heflin, spokesman for the Long Beach Fire Department, told the Los Angeles Times. “You really have to question why you are doing that.”
Chris Lowe, head of the Shark Lab at Cal-State Long Beach, told the Times that feeding the sharks could change their behavior. They could become complacent and rely on chum to survive and it could also lead to the sharks becoming more aggressive.
Scientists say the return of juvenile sharks indicates a recovery in the marine ecology. By coming closer to shore, they feed on stingrays and smaller fish, according to the Press-Telegram.
According to the Press-Telegram, some crews were cooperative after being contacted by the city’s Marine Safety Division. A crew from National Geographic was “very receptive” after the division talked to them.
Lifeguards will be citing anyone who is caught in the act of chumming, according to the Times.