White Shark Washes Ashore on Santa Cruz Beach, Feared Dead

Beachgoers in Santa Cruz got quite a shock Friday when a white shark washed ashore.

A witness called the sheriff’s office upon seeing the 10-foot shark at Pleasure Point Beach around 4 p.m.

Awestruck bystanders said something seemed to be wrong with the shark. Some waded into the water in an attempt to push the predator back out to sea, but they weren't able to do so.

Researchers with the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation also made an unsuccessful attempt to rescue the shark. They said it appears that the young adult male shark was likely sick, because it was unable to steer itself. 

"We were able to get the shark uprighted and in the water, but it just turned around," said Sean Van Sommeran with the Foundation. "It was aimless."

Although high surf pushed the shark out to sea twice, storm-like conditions kept pushing it back to shore. Video from the scene showed a shark with seemingly bloodied fins being tossed around like a rag doll by the strong current.

Researchers say it's the first beached white shark seen in the Monterey Bay in three years, and the first adult male shark seen in decades.

“I’ve been here 50 years, and that's the first time I've seen something like that,” said Gary Buthman, who captured footage of the scene.

Volunteers from the Marine Mammal Center as well as wardens, rangers, firefighters and California Highway Patrol officers responded to the scene, according to the Pelagic Shark Foundation.

Once darkness set, the shark was no longer visible, and researchers had no idea where it was. They said they plan to return to the beach Saturday morning to investigate whether a rare bacteria — carnobacteroum infection — plaguing sharks along the coast caused its illness. 

"Currently not looking optimistic in terms of rescue," researchers wrote on the foundation's Facebook page, adding that they are trying to arrange a necroscopy. 

“These sharks swallow hooks sometimes,” Sommeran said. “People do catch and release them, usually accidentally … and cut the line.”

To support or volunteer, people can email psrf@pelagic.org or call 831-600-5214.

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