Shark Watch: What to do if you see a shark at the beach

The director of a renowned shark research center in California shared how to stay safe and the importance of not panicking if you encounter a shark at the beach this summer season.

Chris Lowe, the director of the Shark Lab at Cal State University (CSU) Long Beach, told Fox News Digital that sharks will act aggressively when they feel threatened by humans.

“If an animal feels threatened, it will act aggressively,” he said. “If you chase a cat down an alley, and you corner it, it will arch its back and raise its fur. 

“It will act aggressively to try to scare you off,” Lowe said.


Lowe said that through research at the Shark Lab, they have learned that sharks in Southern California are regularly around swimmers– and most of the time largely ignore humans.

“I think a lot of times when people see sharks in Southern California, it’s because the shark wants to be seen, like they will literally swim right in front of people,” he said. “And a lot of times, they’re very shy. They’re very coy.”

“We see many sharks just completely ignore people on the surface,” Lowe said.


The shark researchers said that in the event you spot a shark, keep your eyes peeled on the predator.

“What we always tell people is to look, keep your eyes on the shark,” Lowe said. “Let the shark know you see it and track it.”

“If your face is in the water, follow the shark. It knows where your head is. It knows where your eyes are,” he said. “If you’re on your surfboard, turn your surfboard towards it. So the head of your surfboard acts like the head of an animal, and the shark feels like it’s being watched.”

white shark fin

Lowe said that if you lose track of the shark, look behind you because the predator is likely stalking you.

“If you lose sight of the shark, the first place you should always look is behind you, because that’s what all predators do,” he said. “If they’re going to investigate something, they’re going to investigate it from behind because that’s the safest way to do that.”


Lowe said that an aggressive shark can be identified if it’s “rapidly coming in and then zipping away.”

“What an aggressive shark looks like is its rapidly coming in and then zipping away and coming in closer and zipping away or circling and getting closer and closer,” Lowe said.

He said that if the shark is swimming slowly, it could mean that it is just curious and not aggressive.

“But if they start picking up speed, that’s usually associated with aggression,” he said.

A sand tiger shark

Lowe said that shark aggression is typically associated with two reasons: for defensive reasons or if the predator is protecting its food source.

“There could be some food nearby that it’s trying to protect, and therefore it might be acting aggressively towards a person,” he said.

Lowe said that if a shark starts acting aggressive, they slowly back away without losing eye contact.

“Just keep slowly moving back, always facing the sharks, swimming away,” he said. “And then if you get out of the water, notify other people, let lifeguards know. Let other people in the water.”

WATCH: White Shark Tagging

The Shark Lab at Cal State University (CSU) Long Beach tirelessly works to research shark behavior and inform the public.

Lowe said that the center has a variety of different ways to encounter the public and help them become more informed about shark activity and shark behavior.

“One way is through what we call, Shark Shacks,” he said. “The Shark Shacks are pop-ups at a bunch of beaches across Southern California several times during the summer.”

“We also have a big open house at the university on July 20th, which we call Sharks at the Beach,” he said. “So this is where we get to invite the community in to see the Shark Lab.”

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