San Diego

Drones Offer New Vantage Point for Shark Sightings Off San Diego Coast

Shark Lab’s next project is to tag the sharks and track their migration

New drone technology is helping lifeguards and marine biologists spot great white sharks swimming along San Diego's coastline. 

The drone from Cal State University Long Beach's Shark Lab helped lifeguards warn swimmers and surfers about a 6-foot juvenile great white shark that was spotted off Del Mar on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

The addition of the drones in recent weeks is partially the reason for the increased frequency of shark sightings, according to Chris Lowe, Ph.D., Director of the Shark Lab.

Lowe's team was granted $3.75 million from the state in June to monitor shark activity along the Southern California coast this summer.

They are using the grant money for drones and will also launch an underwater robot. They also work with lifeguards to locate shark activity.

Lowe said they have not figured out why the juvenile great whites have decided to swim just about 400 yards off the shore, but knows Southern California’s coast is their birthing area and considered their nursery.

Shark Lab’s next project, along with the drone camera use, is to tag the sharks and track their migration.

Surfers said they have seen the warning signs, but still take the risk, knowing that so far the sightings have not shown any aggressive shark behavior.

“It was pretty far off shore, so I wasn’t too worried,” said regular surfer from Rancho Santa Fe, Robby McRoskey.

NBC 7 showed McRoskey and his friend Cole Harris some of the drone video that CSULB’s Shark Lab captured from off the coast of Del Mar.

“Oh, that is really shallow,” he said.

A father and son visiting from Alaska, Max and Callum Kullberg, were confidently playing in the water right along the shoreline despite the shark warning sign.

“I’m comforted all the locals are still out there; I figure if the shark comes it’s going to get them before it gets my son,” joked Kullberg.

He said he was glad more drones are out there monitoring the activity, and hopeful that more sightings means a healthier eco system, as long as the great whites keep their distance from people.

“Maybe we’ve been swimming with them all this time,” said Kullberg.

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