Shark sightings of the California coast are not infrequent and attacks in the San Diego region are rare – but they do happen. Since 1950 there have been 2 reported deaths attributed to sharks – and in one case where foul play was possibly believed to have taken place.

In 1959 Robert L. Pamperin was diving at La Jolla Cove in what was believed to be a shark attack. His body was never recovered. A few years later a spear fisherman was bitten in the same spot. In 2008 at Solano Beach David Martin was killed by a shark while training for a marathon.

In 1994 Michelle Von Emster died near Ocean Beach. The medical examiner concluded it was a shark attack. Law enforcement believe she may have been a murder victim whose body was dumped in the ocean.

How Many Shark Attacks in San Diego

Statistically there has been a total of 17 shark attacks in all of San Diego County since 1926. So shark attacks in the San Diego area are very rare – even though sharks are common in the area. It is believed that 5 – 10 species of shark are present within a mile of the shore. These include leopard, smoothhound, and baby great white sharks. Many sharks are completely harmless, unless provoked. Larger ones can be a problem if they bite – even by accident.   Generally speaking it is the adult Great White that is the only one that will attack unprovoked.

How to Prevent a Shark Attack

Don’t wear brightly contrasting colors in the water. Sharks have good visual awareness and so the fallacy that they can mistake a surfer in a black wetsuit for a seal may be incorrect. It is believed that some species can see in color – which may attract their attention.

Don’t wear flashy jewelry. This can be mistaken for little fish swimming through the ocean – and a source of food. It’s also a good idea to avoid entering the water during the seasons that fish are spawning as they attract a lot of predators including sharks. Also avoid areas that have had a lot of recurring shark activity. Ask around to locals before entering the ocean and find out if there has been shark activity in the area.

Be aware of the activity of wildlife around you. If they are spooked it may be an indicator that there is a predator around. Schools of fish jumping, seals quickly heading for the shore are examples.  If you are attacked it is suggested that (rather than try to swim away) you spread out your arms and legs to show you are not a seal or sea lion – and as a last resort fight back aiming for eyes or snout.

San Diego Shark Attack Videos


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