I have been diving regularly in the San Diego area since 2000, averaging about 100 dives per year, mainly in the area of La Jolla Shores, La Jolla Cove, Wreck Alley and Pt Loma, as well as being actively involved in the San Diego diving community and I do not recall hearing of any diver reports of encounters with Sevengill sharks much before 2007, when we began hearing the first reports from local divers.
The first videos, to my knowledge, taken of Sevengills locally, by Stephen Murvine an experienced local diver, begin surfacing.
One of the earliest accounts [Nov. 17, 2008], involved a diver, Steve Mair, who had jumped in the water from a charter boat to retrieve a dropped buoyancy compensator, reported being ‘bumped‘ by a Sevengill.
These reports were unusual enough at the time to make the rounds on many of the local dive lists. No one had ever really heard much about ‘7 Gill’ sharks and in fact, the earliest encounters, we have reason to believe that divers were misidentifying them as ‘6 Gills’ due to the similarities in appearance.
We continued to hear anecdotal reports involving divers seeing or having close encounters with these animals off and on through 2008, but many of these reports were not written up or submitted to any dive lists.
It was not until early 2009 that encounters between divers and Sevengills became frequent enough to start getting documented on video and this is when we start seeing these encounters being documented.
In March of 2009, Barbara Lloyd, was diving off of Broomtail Reef with a photographer friend of ours, when a large female passed between them. Actually, it made two passes, one from the right and one from the left, giving my dive buddy a excellent chance to document it in High Definition Video and our friend to capture it with a high quality wide angle SLR lens [posted here, under Video 2009], respectively—see Dive Video ID #8]
I had almost given up ever getting to see one of the magnificent creatures myself, when, while diving off of Wind ‘n’ Sea, Pt La Jolla, by boat, one late afternoon in August of 2009 with a friend, a large Sevengill passed right between us while we were only 2 meters apart.
Unfortunately, we were not quite as well prepared as our other photographer friends and, while my buddy did have a camera and attempted to take photos of the shark, we were both so startled by its sudden appearance that the photographs came out poor quality, with quite a bit of backscatter and so, are not good enough for identification purposes, although some identifying features are visible.
Although we are not positive, we think this same shark then went on to make an appearance to another dive buddy team from the same boat, about 10 minutes later. They were about 200 yards away, so unless there were two separate sharks in the same area, that’s the likely explanation for their sighting.
I submitted the story of this encounter to California Diving News and it was run in the Oct. 2009 issue, under Marine Life Encounters, below:
By Michael Bear [owner of this site]
On Aug. 15, 2009, while diving off Pt La Jolla, my dive buddy Dave Hershman and I had a sudden and remarkable encounter with a large Sevengill Shark:
One of the first things we noticed upon reaching the bottom was absolutely no fish—anywhere. The lighting was also strange: a strange, yellowish-green tinge to everything, lending a deserted, eerie feel to the whole place.
We continued deeper and deeper into this spooky, yellowish-green ‘ghost forest’ with its odd, dearth of fish—failing to make an obvious connection in our minds: where had they all gone and why? Last week, this same area was overflowing with fish. Sometimes the fish sense something you don’t.
Click link below to read the rest of the article online: http://www.cadivingnews.com/article/731/Sevengill-Shark
Another encounter involved the Program Director for Reef Check California, Colleen Wisniewski, who was doing a transect line survey off of Broomtail Reef, Ocean Beach on Friday, May 28, Ms. Wisniewski, was doing a science dive near La Jolla Cove, when she saw what she believed to be a 10 foot-long Sevengill shark.
See this link for the rest of the story: http://www.examiner.com/article/reef-check-california-scientist-encounters-sevengill-shark-on-science-dive-la-jolla
Needless to say, she noted it on her survey slate and, as a data entry person for RCCA, I was able to enter it into their database as, to my knowledge, the first instance of a Sevengill shark being encountered on an RCCA survey dive.
Since then, encounters at La Jolla Cove have been reported almost weekly [except in 2011] by members of a local business called Scuba Diver Girls—see Video section here on right.
While not marine science professionals ourselves, it seem fairly obvious to even the most casual observer—anyone who has dived in these waters with any regularity in the past 5 years, anyway—that this species of shark is appearing to divers with startling frequency and regularity just in the last 24 months and we are hoping to gather enough data to at least help marine professionals to begin answering the question: “Why is this happening?” and “Why Now?”
August 2010, San Diego, California