A Fourth of July shark sighting at Pirate’s Cove near Avila Beach is going viral on social media.
Experts say that these are likely female leopard sharks coming into shallow water to shorten their pregnancy.
The scene has all the elements of a viral video -- a beach packed with people celebrating the Fourth of July as some wade into the water, unaware of all the sharks just feet away.
“Most of the people on the beach had no clue what was going on right there. I’ve definitely never seen anything like that,” said Arroyo Grande resident Tim Faes who took the now-viral video.
Faes saw the sharks and took the video from right above the steps leading down the final stretch to Pirate’s Cove.
“It’s usually a school of fish, but not a large group of sharks like that. It was kind of unbelievable in some ways,” he said.
The video is getting a lot of attention and has been shared across social media platforms, including TikTok.
“It’s weird, it’s really weird. It’s the one time I’ve related with my kids recently,” said Faes. “I don’t have a TikTok account, but I’ve had a few people reach out to me and ask permission to use the video.”
In the video, you can see dozens of these sharks hanging out in the shallow, warm water.
The director of the CSU Long Beach shark lab explains what’s bringing them so close to shore.
“Big females, particularly pregnant females, seek out warm water in those shallow areas only during the day, and they’re using those warm areas we think to speed up their pregnancy,” said Director Christopher Lowe.
Leopard sharks are common in the waters off the coast of Southern California and the Central Coast as well.
“They are basically harmless, they are small sharks,” said Benjamin Ruttenberg, Director for Cal Poly’s Center for Coastal Marine Sciences.
Ruttenberg says that leopard sharks are harmless to humans. They come into shallow coves and estuaries to feed on things like crab, squid and clams.
“I love seeing them, they’re beautiful animals, kind of gray with kind of darker spots,” he said. “They’re graceful swimmers, often hanging around in and around kelp beds.”
Leopard sharks can grow up to six feet long. Females can give birth to as many as 15 pups at a time.
“When people get a chance to see them, it’s pretty cool. They have to be careful if they go in these areas to not scare the females away,” said Lowe. “If you’re really quiet and you paddle in there on a kayak or you snorkel in there and don’t disturb them, it’s an amazing thing to see.”
A once-in-a-lifetime video, meanwhile, continues to make its rounds on the internet.
“I figure this is probably my five minutes of fame for the rest of my life,” said Faes. “I enjoy the ocean. I know if you live on the Central Coast you enjoy the ocean as well and I don’t think it’s something that people should be scared of. “
The director of the CSU Long Beach Shark Lab referred to places like Pirate’s Cove as a maternity ward for leopard sharks.