La Jolla shark warning no longer in effect

By City News Service

A shark warning in and around La Jolla was no longer in effect Tuesday after lifeguards determined many reported sightings were of dolphins, not sharks.

Lifeguards issued an alert to beachgoers Monday morning after several shark sightings were reported over the weekend. But with no confirmed sightings on Monday, the alert was called off for today, said lifeguard Lt. Andy Lerum.

The alert was for a roughly two-mile-long stretch of shoreline from La Jolla Cove to Scripps Pier.

Though there were no confirmed shark sightings on Monday, several anxious beachgoers went to lifeguards throughout the day claiming to have seen a shark, Lerum said, noting that what they really saw were dolphins.

Lifeguard spokesman Lt. Andy Lerum said Tuesday, shark sightings are reported on a daily basis. Since Sunday when a kayaker and a lifeguard at La Jolla Shores both reported seeing large sharks which could have been great whites, Lerum said other people have made reports that didn’t pan out.

“Every single one of them turned out to be a dolphin,” he said, adding the two species can be told apart, not only by their size, but by the shape of their dorsal fins (shark’s are more triangular). They also behave differently and swim differently because sharks are gill-breathing fish and dolphins are air-breathing mammals, noted.

On Sunday morning, a kayaker reported seeing a shark while paddling about two miles off the coast of La Jolla Shores, lifeguard Chief Rick Wurts said.

The canoeist said the marine predator was “as big or bigger” than his kayak, suggesting that the animal might have been eight to 10 feet long, Wurts said.

Late that afternoon, several lifeguards supervising La Jolla Shores saw an 18- to 24-inch dorsal fin approaching the beach, according to Wurts. The shark got to within about 50 yards of land, then made a sharp turn and disappeared into the ocean, he said.

Following the first sighting, lifeguards began notifying surfers and swimmers about the sightings.

“We want to give people a chance to make their own informed decisions about what we saw,” Wurts said.

The most recent local fatal shark attack occurred April 25, 2008, when a great white killed 66-year-old retired North County veterinarian David Martin as he swam with fellow members of a triathlon club near Fletcher Cove in Solana Beach.