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Article updated at 1:10 p.m. on Tuesday, May 2

By Eric Heinz

Update, from the city of San Clemente:  “The city of San Clemente has reopened its beaches. The city’s Marine Safety Division communicated with other public safety agencies, received reports from lifeguards who patrolled the beaches and reviewed drone footage, none of which reported any shark sightings. Therefore, the city elected to reopen its beaches at 12:30 p.m. today, May 2. The city will post advisory signs of recent shark sightings. This fits within policy guidelines as applied to both the shark attack and the shark sightings reported by the Orange County Fire Authority last night. The city has been informed that the State beaches are still closed, although they are not enforcing the closure.”


Original Story

The city of San Clemente today had expected to reopen the beach waters it patrols, but on Monday evening, May 1,  an Orange County Fire Authority helicopter spotted a pack of nine great white sharks just outside the surf line at Capistrano Beach, a press release from the city on Tuesday stated.

“In response to a shark attack near San Onofre State Beach on Saturday, the city of San Clemente’s Marine Safety Division enforced a closure of all San Clemente (city) beaches,” the release stated  “The State Lifeguards enforced a beach closure from Trail 6 (at San Onofre) to San Clemente’s public beaches.”

San Onofre beach waters are closed until Wednesday morning, May 3,  for another evaluation of shark presence and behavior, park officials said.

The beaches in San Clemente were initially closed on Sunday as a precautionary measure due to the attack on Leeanne Ericson as she was swimming at Churches beach at San Onofre State Park on Saturday. Ericson is currently at a hospital in a La Jolla hospital recovering from severe bite injuries to her leg.

Another shark was sighted by a local fisherman at San Clemente Pier late Sunday afternoon, the press release stated. The fisherman said the shark was estimated at 11 feet long.

“There was also a report by state lifeguards of aggressive shark behavior at Upper Trestles on Sunday in which a shark chased surfers out of the water,” the release stated.

A pack of sharks was photographed on Sunday afternoon near Capistrano Beach. Photo: Courtesy of Matt Larmand
Three sharks were photographed on Sunday afternoon near Capistrano Beach. Photo: Courtesy of Matt Larmand

“Based on the distance of those sharks to San Clemente and their length, we have decided to keep the city’s beaches closed and then reevaluate the closure mid-morning using our shark policy as our guide,” City Manager James Makshanoff said in the release.

People can still visit the beaches land, but the waters are off limits at this time.

The release stated city lifeguards follow a county-wide protocol and respond by closing the beaches if there is a perceived danger to the public. This policy is an agreement with all county lifeguard chiefs and state lifeguards.

“The city asks that the public be mindful of the signage posted on the beach and stay out of the water,” the release stated.

Lifeguards are on duty and red flag warnings notifying the public of hazardous conditions are visible along the beaches.

Any other threat should be reported to lifeguards at the Marine Safety Headquarters building just north of the Pier or to the Pier lifeguard tower, which is manned seven days a week. Marine Safety can be reached at 949.361.8219 and Sheriff’s Dispatch at 949.770.6011 or 911 for emergencies.

Tips from the city to help reduce your risk of sharks:

  • Do not swim too far from shore
  • Stay in groups, as sharks are more likely to attack a solitary individual
  • Avoid being in the water during darkness or twilight when sharks are most active
  • Don’t go in the water if bleeding from a wound, as sharks have an acute sense of smell
  • Leave the shiny jewelry at home, as the reflected light resembles fish scales
  • Avoid brightly colored swimwear, as sharks see contrast particularly well

    Editor’s note: This is a developing story. The San Clemente Times will provide more information when it becomes available. 

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comments (11)

  • these animals are growing and looking for larger foods us !! because they are protected the pups have grown and not been consumed,,,,, because we saved all those seal pups they are attracted ,,,, and those seals now have no fear of us because we feed them instead of making slickers out of them ,,,,, its just like feeding pigeons you get more pigeons and more pigeon poop ,,,,, more sharks more bites ,,,,all greats whites over 4 foot should be destroyed just like florida all gators over six food are turned into boots ,,, i love nature but i prefer to be at the top of the food chain not a main course ,,, i suggest a bounty opening of a few weeks or great white fishing tournament to lessen the threat

    capt george

    • George, you clearly have NO understanding of what is happening in our oceans, so before you start encouraging what is a federal crime against protected animals, you might want to think twice. If anything is proliferating on this planet too much it is humans and all the resources we use and then treat like a toilet. .

    • That is the most ignorant comment I have heard in a long time. The ecosystem is so acutely vulnerable to our meddling that we have altered the landscape too much already and are now on the receiving end of the problems. Messing with mother nature works out exactly ZERO times. If we continue to over fish and destroy the food sources of the marine predators, they will begin to look elsewhere for survival, but let’s be clear – These shark attacks are mistakes – They are not eating us, they are biting us. If the shark wanted to eat this woman, you would not have found anything but bones.

    • Dear Capt. George…Destroying all great whites over 4 ft. would result in destroying all great whites as they don’t reach sexual maturity at 4 ft in length. Your hysteria scares me. One shark attack and you want to destroy the species. I’d suggest you focus your attention on something more likely to harm you such as tree limbs, lightening, or bee stings.

    • Not at the top of the food chain when you go into THEIR habitat. Just like you’re not top of the food chain if YOU ago on safari and a lion eats you. Now if a Great White comes up to your front door and bites your leg off… then you have a gripe. And how can you be a nature lover if your first response to anything that can eat you is to kill it before it can…

  • Destroying an apex predator is short-sighted and would have terrible ecological consequences. We need sharks to keep the sea lion and seal populations in check, to cull the sick ones and keep everything operating normally. Humans are not at the top of the food chain and should accept the risk if they put themselves on the menu.

  • At this time, I will not respond to the idiotic nature of “Capt George’s” comment(s)… however, having been in the water with these beautiful, apex predators (diving, snorkeling, kayaking and SUP’ing), I can share that great white sharks do not target human beings. The ocean is THEIR HABITAT, not ours… period! Irrespective of what we’re doing whilst in the water, they will, if nearby, “investigate” us. Even considering the fact that sightings have steadily increased over the past 5-6 years or so, the chances of our paths crossing (still) remain very remote. Unfortunately, there are a handful of “bite-n-go” attacks that happen each year… solely because we consistently occupy their domain. Juvenile great white sharks (8′-9′ and under) feed mainly on fish and rays, so they typically comb shallow waters for food. This is why we see exponentially more juveniles along our coastline. The larger, mature great white sharks predominately hunt marine mammals (Harbor Seals, California Sea Lions, and Bottlenosed and Common Dolphins), and will target the young, old, sick, and injured individuals of the species. They will also frequently be found/seen eating dead whales floating offshore. On (a rare) occasion, a large great white shark (10′ and up) will venture close to shore as a result of the presence of (primarily) seals and sea lions. Naturally, if human beings are in the water in close proximity to their preferred food source, encounters and attacks will inevitably happen. Think of it this way, a great white shark (obviously) cannot swim it’s way into a supermarket and gather up a bunch of food for it’s meals… so, it has to search for, investigate (circle, bump and/or bite), and potentially consume any and all “items” in the water. Sometimes, the only thing in the water is a human being. Not long ago, great white sharks were endangered. Fortunately now, they are a protected marine species… and their numbers are increasing. This is very good for the overall health of the planet’s oceans and seas! Just because we can hunt and kill them, doesn’t mean we should. Just because great white sharks are large, apex predators with big mouths full of razor-sharp, serrated teeth, doesn’t mean we should be scared of them… however, if we venture into THEIR DOMAIN, we should be ACUTELY AWARE of them. To suggest that we should eradicate them from our oceans in order to ensure our safety whilst in the water, is as asinine and ignorant a frame of mind and posture, as it would be to make a claim that we should kill all the lions in Africa to make it safe for us to stroll across its plains…

  • Unlike you people who mostly are on the beach, those of us in the water regularly agree. Cull the local white population. Take a look at whats happened at Reunion Island.

    • great white the other white meat

    • To: “in the water” – Obviously, you either didn’t fully read my post, or have comprehension issues, as I am frequently in the water, and have dived, snorkeled, kayaked and SUP’d with great white sharks (on 3 different continents)! We venture into THEIR DOMAIN… and that means, NO RULES. Great White Sharks are intensely critical to the health of our marine ecosystem. Considering that they have been around for 35 Million Years (plus), much much much much much longer than we have (or will be)… their existence and hierarchical position on this planet certainly trumps ours, yes? So who and what are we, to say; “Let’s cull them all, so we can be safe in the ocean (again, THEIR DOMAIN).” This (your) mindset is completely and totally ignorant! Perhaps one day in the future, someone will feel strongly that YOU are a threat to their safety… and decide to cull you?

  • these animals are more robot than fuzzy creatures you paint them as and i don’t condone killing all but the largest ,, animals large enough to bite me or you and our children in half don’t belong on or near our beaches and as you can see from resent counts they are forming packs that can decimate a boogie board line up in a heartbeat or remove a pretty girl’s arm or leg ,, when polar bears keep returning what do you do ,,,if a lion is in the village what do you do ,,,when alleged eco tours go to the tuna grounds and start feeding and messing with these animals these animals show up no matter who’s anchor ( dinner bell ) is dropped,,, so you shake hands with them and become one with nature in the form of fish poo ,,, i prefer to feed myself

    ladies and gentlemen please don’t tempt fate these animals are faster and stronger than us and some like a hammer head can turn right back on itself and bite before its tail has cleared you,,, eco shows are done buy pros its like chainsaw juggling its not for everyone ,,,
    please be safe , watersports are great but when these animals have the field please leave the water ,,, one piranha is no threat a school of piranha well you get the point

    change the law thin their herd not ours

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