The Monterey Bay Aquarium has recorded high numbers of juvenile great white sharks in the waters of Monterey Bay, California, likely caused by rising ocean temperatures.
Known for its whale watching and vibrant marine ecology, Monterey Bay hosts numerous predatory species, including killer whales. However, in 2022, concern is mounting over the rising number of one specific predator; the great white shark.
Juvenile great white sharks are commonly known to inhabit the Monterey region, drawn by its warm waters and abundance of food. Historically, population numbers have been manageable, but the animals have been observed in surprisingly high figures over the past few years, a trend which is gradually increasing, as previously reported back in 2021.
Scientists are certain this increased great white activity in Monterey Bay is caused by rising sea temperatures. Juvenile great whites are unable to regulate their body temperatures effectively, causing them to stay in warmer waters closer to shore. As sea temperatures rise, they’re finding it easier to stay in the Monterey region for longer, pushing their northern range higher up the California coastline.
Recent great white attacks in the region suggest the increased numbers are causing conflict between humans and shark:
- 2020: Surfer Ben Kelly was attacked and killed by a shark
- 2022: Swimmer Steve Bruemmer was attacked but survived
As sea temperatures carry on with their consistent and alarming rise, it is thought the number of great whites near the shores of Monterey Bay will continue to spike. For the protection of both sharks and people, this trend should be observed and acknowledged.
As a threatened species, increased visibility in numbers will be considered a win for conservation, but more conflict with humans will only serve to hinder efforts to repair the great white’s inaccurate reputation as mindless killer.
Awareness of the increasing great white population off the Monterey coast will be important to preventing more incidents and helping both species co-exist harmoniously. The Monterey Bay Aquarium also seeks to understand and manage the rise for another reason, to protect the population of sea otters in Monterey, on which the great white shark is known to predate.