A group of what appeared to be juvenile white sharks were spotted on Thursday afternoon off Torrey Pines State Beach.
Flying overhead at about 3:30 p.m. SkyRanger 7 easily spotted several of the sharks, including a group of three swimming near one another.
As the chopper was above, cameras were able to record a shark swimming languidly below and near a surfer, who, possibly not knowing of the shark's presence, was sitting up on his board, feet dangling beneath. The shark, though, seemed to pay the surfer no mind.
Dovi Kacev is an assistant teaching professor in the Marine Biology Research Division at Scripps whose research interests include "a special focus on understanding the ecology of migratory shark species," according to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
Shown the photo of the shark and the surfer in the same frame, Kacev commented, "That's a little dude."
“There have been several juvenile white sharks seen off of the Del Mar/Torrey Pines region this summer,” said Kavev, who reviewed an image sent to him by NBC 7. “That image is not easily diagnostic, but the location and what I can see on the image is consistent with a white shark. I cannot really say whether it is a juvenile because there is nothing with which to guess the size, but given how skinny it looks, it does not appear to be an adult :)”
Kacev said it was not unusual to see a grouping of the sharks: “I would not call it a pod, but a small aggregation is not surprising.”
A spokeswoman for San Diego Fire-Rescue Department said there were no plans under way to close beaches.
A lifeguard made announcements along the beach the area near Bathtub Rock, and up to a mile south, according to SDFD spokesperson Monica Munoz.
Shark advisory signs were posted in the area of the sighting and within a 1-mile radius of lifeguard tower 1, and they will remain posted for 24 hours, a spokesperson for the state's Department of Parks and Recreation said.
The spokesperson said the sharks were swimming 50 feet from shore, 100 to 200 yards south of tower 1, and were not aggressive. The largest of them was believed to be about 10 feet long.
"State Parks would like to remind visitors that sharks are an important part of the coastal ecosystem and that interactions between humans and sharks are rare along the coast of Southern California," the spokesperson said.
Members of the Drug Enforcement Administration happened to be in the area and were the first to spot the sharks, and they in turn notified state beach lifeguards, who then called San Diego police and requested an aircraft to fly over the beach.
University of San Diego professor Andrew Nosal has been in San Diego since 2007, when he came here to attend graduate school at UC San Diego and study the leopard sharks that school off the coast of La Jolla. He told NBC 7 earlier this year that it's not unusual for great whites to be spotted off the coast of California.
"This is the time of year that white sharks are born -- so the spring -- and they're typically born 4 feet in length, and these white sharks will hang out in the summer months, even into the fall, and once the water temperatures begin to drop, they will migrate south to Mexico to stay in warm waters," Nosal said in April.
The juvenile great whites can reach 10 feet in length, Nosal said. Then, when the juveniles reach sexual maturity, they swim north to central and northern California, and transition from eating mostly fish to consuming mostly marine mammals. That, Nosal said, is partly why juvenile sharks are not as dangerous to people as the adults are.
It's not the first time sharks have been spotted off San Diego shores this summer, of course. Coronado lifeguards put up warning signs twice in July after sightings.