Over the last few years in the Santa Monica Bay, shark sightings and encounters have become more frequently reported to lifeguards. Lifeguards continue to work with scientists from the Monterey Bay White Shark Research Group and Dr. Chris Lowe at the Cal State Long Beach Shark Lab who are studying these creatures to obtain a better understanding of their behaviors, seasonal fluctuations, and populations in LA County waters. The presence of these animals is an indication that environmental efforts have been successful and that the bay is recovering, and scientists expect a localized increase in all shark species.

Spiny Dogfish (Squalus acanthias)

Sporting sharp, venomous (poisonous) spines in front of each dorsal fin. Their bodies are dark gray above and white below, often with white spotting on the sides.  Despite their small size, spiny dogfish are aggressive and have a reputation of relentlessly pursuing their prey. The name “dogfish” stems from their habit of feeding in packs—sometimes numbering in the hundreds or thousands.

Pacific Angels Shark (Squatina Californica)

The Pacific angelshark inhabits shallow, coastal waters on sandy flats, usually near rocky reefs, kelp forests, or other underwater features. This species has a flattened body and greatly enlarged pectoral and pelvic fins. Characteristic features of this shark include a pair of cone-shaped barbels on its snout, angular pectoral fins, and a brown or gray dorsal coloration with many small dark markings. It attains a maximum length 4.9 ft.

Tope Soup Fin (Galeorhinus galeus)

Soupfins are known by a number of names, including tope, flake, school shark and vitamin shark (their livers contain an oil that’s rich in vitamin A). They’re easily identified by their slender body and long snout, their small second dorsal fin and the large lobe on the upper section of their tail. Soupfins are often found in schools of up to 50 individuals and may travel hundreds of miles to breed.

Gray Smooth Hound (Mustelus californicus)

Moderately-sized, rather slender shark with two high dorsal fins; grey-brown with no prominent white spots on the dorsum. Snout gradually rounded with elongate and prominent nasal flaps which are well seperated from each other and the mouth; internasal distance more than 1.4 times nostril width; eyes large, horizontally elongate with strong subocular ridges; spiracle rather prominent.

Shovelnose Guitarfish (Rhinobatos productus)

Body is depressed and gradually tapers into the tail; the disk is longer than wide. The snout is rather long and rounded at the tip. The color is gray above becoming lighter below. This species is distinguished from the banded guitarfish by the absence of dark crossbars on the back. It can be separated from most others of this flattened and plated group by the presence of a tail fin and two dorsal fins.

Leopard Shark (Triakis semifasciata)

Leopard sharks are one of the most common sharks along the coast of California. They’re beautiful, slender fish with silvery-bronze skin, patterned with dark ovals that stretch in a neat row across their backs. (Look closely at the dark spots—the older a leopard shark is, the paler the interior of the spots.) Sturdy, triangular pectoral fins are matched by two dorsal fins, and a long, tapered tail swishes gracefully back and forth.

Thresher Shark (Alopias vulpinus)

The muscular thresher shark cuts quite a figure as it navigates through its deepwater domains. Also called the “thrasher shark,” this species possesses a distinctive large tail that resembles the arc of a rainbow. The tail is so large that it accounts for 33 percent of the shark’s total body weight, meaning that the tail alone may weigh up to 767 pounds.

Shortfin Mako (Isurus oxyrinchus)

These sharks have been called “the peregrine falcons of the shark world.” Their torpedo-like bodies and biochemistry make these the fastest of all sharks. Many attain speeds up to 22 miles per hour. One shortfin mako was even clocked swimming at 43 miles per hour. To put that into perspective, the fastest known humans run at around 18 mph.

Salmon Shark (Lamna ditropis)

Adult salmon sharks are medium grey to black over most of the body, with a white underside with darker blotches. Juveniles are similar in appearance, but generally lack blotches. The snout is short and cone-shaped, and the overall appearance is similar to a small great white sharks.  The eyes are positioned well forward, enabling binocular vision to accurately locate prey


White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias)

The great white shark is the world’s largest known predatory fish. It has 300 teeth, yet does not chew its food. Sharks rip their prey into mouth-sized pieces which are swallowed whole. The shark’s heavy, torpedo-shaped body allows it to cruise efficiently for long periods of time, and then suddenly switch to high speed bursts in pursuit of prey—sometimes leaping out of the water. It feeds on a broad spectrum of prey, from small fish, such as halibut, to large seals and dolphins.