CAPITOLA (CBS SF) – A 10-foot white shark that struggled in the shallow waters of a Capitola beach while bystanders tried to come to its aid died of a bacterial infection, according to marine biologists.
Marine Biologist Giancarlo Thomae said a necropsy found an infection had damaged the shark’s brain and other organs.
“The species of the bacteria that contributed to the shark’s death is unknown at this time,” Thomae told KPIX 5. “However, the brain did have many lesions. In additional to that the shark’s heart and liver also showed damage, so we can conclude that the immune system of the shark was also compromised.”
The shark’s struggle triggered a social media frenzy as beachgoers videotaped the large shark’s dying struggles.
Rescue attempts by onlookers and researchers were successful and the stormy conditions did not help.
“Waves were bashing it into the rocks; it had already been beaten up really badly,” said Sean Von Sommeran of the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation. “They (sharks) don’t do that if they’re healthy, they don’t get caught inside. You know that shark was half brain dead before it even got into the surf zone.”
Die-offs of leopard sharks and other types have occurred in the San Francisco Bay in the last two years, but Giancarlo said it was the first juvenile male white shark that has washed up on the Central Coast in the last 30 years.
He said he was not sure if this winter’s stormy weather played any role in the bacteria appearing in local waters.
“Since this is the most rainfall we’ve had in over 30 years, it’s very possible that the high storm runoff had something to do with the shark acquiring this pathogen,” Giancarlo said. “But then again that is impossible to determine for sure.”