(NewsNation) — Great white sharks are beginning to appear in places they’ve ever been seen along California’s coast.
The sharks have been spotted as far north as the Monterey Bay, some 75 miles south of San Francisco. The migration is being driven in large part by warmer ocean temperatures, according to new research by the Shark Lab at California State University, Long Beach.
Chris Lowe, director of the Shark Lab, told “NewsNation Prime” on Sunday that the warmer ocean temperatures are an effect of climate change. As a result, sharks are moving north in search of more suitable waters.
“Those sharks are seeking out certain environmental conditions, and they’re finding that in Monterey,” Lowe said. “Young sharks are temperature sensitive — they don’t like it too cold, and they certainly don’t like it too warm.”
Lowe and the Shark Lab have been studying great white shark movements for the last 16 years, and the data reveals that more and more sharks are being found further north along California’s coast.
“Animals are moving toward cooler climates as the planet warms,” Lowe said, “which means people need to expect to find certain species of sharks in waters that they haven’t seen them before.”
For those concerned about their favorite beach coming under threat from the marine predator, fear not, Lowe says. Shark attacks remain a very rare occurrence.
“We have a lot of new data that shows that sharks and people are interacting with each other daily, but people just don’t know it,” Lowe said. “Sharks and humans are sharing the same environment without incident. As long as people aren’t bothering sharks, they tend to ignore people.”
Monterey Bay stretches from Santa Cruz on the north to Monterey on the south and is home to many sea otters. As the sharks continue to move north, Lowe said the lab has seen an increase in sea otter mortality in the region.
“What we’ve been seeing is … juvenile white sharks trying to feed on sea otters and realizing that’s not a good meal for them, but by then, the sea otter has been mortally wounded,” Lowe said. “We’re seeing a predator affect a prey, which is probably also being influenced by their distribution because of climate change.”