‘Sharktober’ peaks in Monterey Bay as 17-footers arrive

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SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KRON) –  The big ones are here.

The Monterey Bay is home to great white sharks year-round. But the largest migrating sharks — some as huge as 17-feet-long — show up each year in October.

Locals and shark experts refer to October as “Sharktober.”

“I found my biggest yet for 2019…a whopping 17 feet!” wrote wildlife photographer Eric Mailander. “(I) could easily tell size by the 8-foot dolphins that swam nearby. Later I found another whopper of about 15 feet.”

Great white shark
Great white shark photographed in Monterey Bay by Eric Mailander in Oct. 2019.

Mailander helps Monterey Bay Aquarium shark scientists track shark populations along the Central California coastline.

While observing behaviors with his drone, he sees the stealthy ocean predators glide under boogie boarders, surfers, and stand-up paddle boarders. No one ever notices what is just below the surface, Mailander said.

Unlike full-grown adults, smaller juvenile sharks congregate in the Monterey Bay while water temperatures are warmer. Mailander captured 11 juveniles swimming close to shore in just one photograph. (Highlighted below)

11 sharks are highlighted in this photograph by Eric Mailander

“I have seen as many as 25 sharks in a quarter-mile area,” Mailander said. “They mind their own business. But with that said, I’d be more concerned with the adult sharks. Stay away from the seal haul-out areas.”

“The big ones are here to feed. On the elephant seals (and) sea lions. I’ve seen many feeding events, usually in Farallon Islands, Ano Nuevo, and Point Reyes,” Mailander said.

Even during the “sharkiest” times of year, Santa Cruz surfers still paddle out, especially during a solid swell like the swell forecast for Friday.

The last serious Monterey Bay shark attack happened in “Sharktober” of 2011, when surfer Eric Tarantino was bitten in the neck at Marina State Beach. He survived. The chances of a surfer being attacked by a shark is 1 in 17 million, according to Hopkins Marine Station researchers.

The largest sharks will bid adieu to the Monterey Bay in January as they return to offshore Pacific Ocean waters.

Great white shark
Photo by Eric Mailander
Photo by Eric Mailander
Photo by Eric Mailander
Great white shark
Photo by Eric Mailander

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