The return of juvenile great white sharks along the Southern California coastline has made for great television, but some camera crews are being accused of taking the shark bait too far in order to get the photos they want, when they want.
Long Beach lifeguard officials now suspect that media types are “chumming” for the fascinating fish, which is a method of throwing bait in the water near shore to attract sharks.
“We’ve gotten some reports from citizens who have seen recreational boats out chumming,” said Gonzalo Medina, Marine Safety chief. “Some fishing boats too. They’re trying to get video footage of the sharks. But as soon as they see a rescue boat approaching, the activity stops. The officers do contact them, but that’s about it.”
The problem, said Medina, is that the photographers are causing a safety hazard when they chum for sharks too close to the shore. He said that they’re sometimes seen chumming as near as 100 yards away from populated beaches.
Marine safety officers can issue tickets for throwing anything in the water that isn’t attached to a hook, but no tickets have been issued as of yet.
Juvenile great whites around 6 feet long have been making an appearance in the waters off of Long Beach in addition to other populated beaches up and down the coast, which is good news, because it signals a recovery in the marine ecology.
However, it’s bad news for surfers. So far, this year there has been one report of a serious shark bite.
“We had a crew from National Geographic,” Medina said. “We talked with them, and they were very receptive. Ultimately, they used rubber fish attached to a line that they could pull back in.”
Medina added that some crews do react responsibly after being contacted. “By and large, everyone understands the need for safety,” he said. “We’re told that we may be seeing these sharks up and down the coast for quite some time now.”
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