Shark Sighting Prompts Warnings

In response to a great white shark sighting by seven observers near Leadbetter Beach on Sunday morning, Santa Barbara Harbor officials posted shark warning signs at 11 locations for 72 hours advising beachgoers that they should swim at their own risk. Waterfront officials estimate the shark was seven to ten feet long.

Shark sightings — and sightings involving shark attacks on marine mammals — have increased in recent years, though to date there have been no attacks on humans within city limits. (In the last decade, however, there were two shark-attack fatalities further north at Surf Beach and Avila Beach.)

In 2012, there were 20 shark incidents — 8 within city limits — half involving attacks on seals or sea lions. Regulations limiting the use of gill nets close to shore — which routinely killed many juvenile great whites — has resulted in an increase in shark populations. Likewise, federal regulations protecting sea lions and seals has lead to a ten-fold increase in sea mammal populations in state coastal waters.

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