Dana Wharf crew spots great white shark 2-miles off Laguna Beach coast
By Andrea Papagianis
A high-pressure system left the water clear and calm, like the Pacific Ocean had transformed into a lake last Thursday. And as Capt. Todd Mansur headed north out of the Harbor to Laguna Beach tracking three blue whales, he scanned the horizon and a distinct fin broke the water’s surface.
“I was moving pretty fast,” Mansur said. “When you are in my position, you are always looking at the water, not directly but at the horizon, you are constantly scanning and looking for something different.”
Immediately he knew, a great white shark was basking. There was no mistaking it.
Passengers aboard a Dana Wharf Sportfishing and Whale Watching vessel got up close to a great white around noon, and for 15 minutes the shark stayed near. The shark, measuring an estimated 12 to 14 feet in length, was spotted 2-miles off the coast in 500-foot waters, the longtime captain said.
It is only the second time in two years Mansur has seen a great white in these waters. A member of The Gulf of Catalina Grey Whale Preservation & Education Foundation and captain for more than 35 years, Mansur has seen his fair share of marine life, but said seeing a great white near the surface like this was, simply, “amazing.”
He said, the dorsal fin, located on the creature’s back said it all.
The one thing about great whites is when they bask, or soak up the rays, they rarely show their tail fin, unless they are trashing for prey, he said. Great whites are often mistaken for mako sharks, Mansur said, but even from 200-feet out he was certain of what he saw.
While the fins on both sharks are large, mako dorsals have a bluish tint and clusters of small parasites that hang off their back edge. Mansur said great whites aren’t known for lounging near the surface like the basking shark. The basking shark also has a large dorsal fin, but it hangs like a wet rag, he said.
Regional shark expert Chris Lowe, with the Shark Lab at California State University Long Beach, said normally large adult sharks stay further out to sea, but if conditions stay nice as the fall months roll in more sharks could be seen moving to aggregate sites throughout the Southern California coast.
Both Mansur and Lowe said beachgoers have little to fear with great whites.
“Most of the time if a person is bitten by a shark, it is mistaken identity,” Mansur said, adding the 1975 movie Jaws gave people the wrong idea about great white sharks.