Sharks Impact Summer Business in Southern California

Jake Tellkamp

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Updated 147d ago

The final school bell signalling the start of summer sounds like the cha-ching of a cash register to the ears of Southern Californian surfers, but a shark attack at San Onofre and a string of sightings in LA and Orange County, are impacting occupations that rely on seasonal tourism.

Huntington Beach Junior Lifeguard Instructor, Toni Morelli, said that while there’s always been kids fearful of sharks, this summer, sharks are on the back of everyone’s minds as parents are pulling their kids out of the popular summertime program. According to Morelli, there’s 200 fewer kids than last summer.

“We have implemented preventative measures this summer to make kids and parents feel safer. We will have drones in the air checking for sharks prior to swims, a jet ski nearby, and the city of Huntington Beach has a helicopter flying over the water three to four times a week,” said Morelli.

Huntington Beach Lifeguards have undergone special training to deal with sharks. Every Lifeguard tower and truck is now outfitted with tourniquets in the rare case of an attack.

Morelli, who’s a lineup fixture at The Wedge in Newport Beach, said that they’re taking every sighting seriously. “Even if the witness might not be credible, we are handling every report diligently even if we think the person saw a dolphin or seal.”

Perhaps as a response to shark paranoia, Hansen Surf Shop in Encinitas, posted a blog on their website about shark safety and how to differentiate a dolphin from a shark. Even if the witness might not be credible, we are handling every report diligently even if we think the person saw a dolphin or sealIn Long Beach, where recent drone footage revealed a cluster of sharks swimming close to shore, Junior Lifeguard programs have been relocated from the ocean to the Belmont Shore Peninsula in Alamitos Bay in hopes to increase enrolment.

A surf school in Seal Beach promoted their summer camp on Instagram saying that there have been zero wildlife sightings where they hold their lessons.

No surf camps in San Clemente I spoke to wished to comment on how sharks are impacting their business.

Two days ago, San Clemente beaches were closed when an 8-foot-shark was spotted, bringing the total of beach closures for this year into the double digits. San Clemente’s Marine Safety Chief, Bill Humphrey’s told an OC Register reporter that more drones and stand up paddle boarders aren’t the reason that they have had over 100 sightings since May. “There’s more sharks than a couple of years ago, I had never seen a white shark from lifeguarding. Then the first time I saw one, I walked out on the pier and I saw three. It’s a new situation for us.”

San Clemente’s Junior Life Guard Program has 260 enrolled boys and girls, but activities like long distance swimming and paddle boarding, well, they are dependent on if sharks are spotted in the area or not.

At a city council meeting, Humphrey said that they are modifying the swim test for admission into the Junior Lifeguard program. “We are going to hold the swim test at the Ole Hanson pool. No sense in sending a bunch of kids out to the end of the pier strung out a long distance.”

If there’s one business that’s thriving in the summer of the shark, it’s Dana Point's newest attraction, “Great White Shark Sighting Tours,” operated by the Dana Wharf Sport Fishing and Whale Watching, the first five tours offered sold out immediately.