With pattern recognition software used on whale sharks, we hope to identify the individual sevengill sharks - and provide the data to researchers in effort to explain their local resurgence.”Michael Bear
Local scuba divers have spotted large sevengill sharks swimming off the coast of La Jolla this week.The shark is one of the newest creatures to call the area home, and also happens to be one of the largest local predators. Divers are pushing for a scientific explanation to explain this recent phenomenon inside La Jolla Cove. In the past several years there has been a dramatic increase in the number of sevengill shark sightings. The 5-to-8 foot meat eaters don't appear to be too interested in people, but people are interested in them. Rod Watkins, owner of Scuba San Diego Incorporated, has been on more than 8,000 dives but hadn’t seen a sevengill shark until a few years ago. "Seems like every season we start to see more and more and more,” he said. "And this season I've videotaped more sevengill sharks than I’ve ever videotaped… they're the biggest breathing attraction in this ecological reserve." The sharks are native to the West Coast, but disappeared locally 70 years ago - now underwater encounters are growing. "You’re quite clear you’re in the presence of an apex predator and when one swims close to you it definitely gets your adrenaline going,” said diver Michael Bear. Bear is so captivated by the mystery of their return - he set up a website where Watkins and others can log encounters. So far, the website has more than 50 high definition videos and 200 photos of the rare sharks. With pattern recognition software used on whale sharks, he hopes to identify the individual sevengill sharks - and provide the data to researchers in effort to explain their local resurgence. Bear said no one is really sure why there is an uptick in sightings, but he had a couple guesses. "I’m thinking with this huge population of pinnipeds here now both inside the cove and over at Children’s Pool the supermarket is open 24/7 here,” he said. As Watkins puts it - the sharks “have the equipment to cause some damage,” but are not usually aggressive toward humans. "We haven’t had any reports of them being aggressive recently,” he said. “There were a couple reports a couple years ago of divers being bumped at La Jolla cove, but that's about it."
Photo courtesy of Daniel Botelho, National Geographic Photographer