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Beachgoers encounter young shark on Cambria beach

Posted at 6:15 PM, Jun 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-17 22:41:05-04

By now, you may have seen footage shared on social media from some Central Coast beachgoers who tried to rescue a juvenile shark last Friday.

A KSBY reporter shared the video with some shark experts who said Monday that while it looks like a juvenile great white shark, it’s actually a salmon shark. They are closely related, but salmon sharks are smaller in size at birth.

White sharks are birthed at roughly five to six feet and salmon sharks are birthed at three to four feet.

“At first I was really hesitant, because I was like, am I going to get bitten?” said Pedro Hernandez.

Friday afternoon, Hernandez and Sydney Lewis were enjoying a picnic on the beach in Cambria when they saw a juvenile shark wash ashore. Their initial instinct was to rescue the shark.

“Once you touch its skin, it’s not like what you expect,” explained Hernandez. “It’s not slimy, but it’s like sandpaper.”

In the viral video, Hernandez picks the shark up by its tale while Lewis presses record on her cell phone.

“As soon as it hit the water, it was gone,” Lewis said.

Once the video was shared with some shark experts, they explained why a juvenile shark might beach itself.

“It’s not rare to see small salmon sharks of that size that are newborns stranded on beaches. Usually, it means something is wrong with them,” said Nick Wegner, Fisheries Research Biologist, NOAA.

“There is a type of bacteria that infects the brain of these sharks. It appears that these sharks have a very narrow thermal tolerance. When they are born they inhabit between 54 and 56 degrees Fahrenheit. This time of year, you get upwellings and the temps drop below 50 degrees. When that happens, this causes an infection in their brains. It’s generally fatal for them,” said Dr. David Ebert, Director of the Pacific Shark Research Center.

It’s common for salmon sharks to visit Central Coast waters during summer months as they migrate to the area to give birth. They are following their food source — salmon.

Fish and Wildlife officials said as of Monday, they haven’t seen many beached salmon sharks so far this year.

“This is nature in its truest form and I never thought I would see something like this,” Lewis said.

Marine experts do not recommend picking up a shark by its tail as it can easily bite you. They told KSBY that they really don’t want the public touching these animals, because they are on the beach for a reason. They are sick and this is nature taking its course.

If you do see a beached shark call the California Department of Fish and Wildlife at (805) 772-1135.

Fish and Wildlife say they will come and pick up the sick animal for research purposes.