On August 25, near lifeguard tower 15 in Mission Beach, eyewitnesses described seeing a 15-inch dorsal fin protruding from the ocean about 100 yards off shore, suggesting there may have been a 10- to 15-foot white shark in the area.
Lifeguards cleared the water and closed a two-mile stretch of ocean to swimmers while shark-patrolling helicopters circled overhead.
The next day, what’s believed to be the same shark was seen again, resulting in another closure.
Less than a week later, a 12-inch dorsal fin sighting in La Jolla closed waters for 24 hours and prompted the San Diego Police Department to scramble one of its helicopters for a recon mission. Then, on September 1, a man on the beach captured a photograph of what appeared to be another giant shark, this one catching a wave near surfers at Swami’s in Encinitas.
“It’s possible all these sightings were of the same shark,” says Nick Wegner, a shark expert at Scripps Institute of Oceanography. “Lifeguards are trained and if they say it looked like a great white shark, it probably was. However, the only picture I saw came from a tourist and it looked like a dolphin.”
According to Wegner, only two shark-related fatalities have been reported in San Diego County, one in La Jolla in 1959, and one in Solana Beach in 2008.
“If you are attacked by a shark,” he says, “the best thing to do is gouge its eyeballs or gills or, better yet, get out of the water immediately.” (Or just swim faster than the guy next to you.)