Photos and words by Kyle McBurnie
Sevengill Shark Diving – Shore Dive
When: Spring – have a look at our dive conditions page where we post sightings of sevengills after each dive.
Meeting location: The grassy area in front of La Jolla Cove – Google Maps
Max Number of Divers: 4 per dive master
Cost: $130 for the 1st dive, $90 for the 2nd (includes gear rental), an additional $49 for GoPro rental
For boat dives to see sevengills, please click here.
Why dive with us?
At SD Expeditions dive La Jolla almost every day, which allows us to remain informed and up-to-date with the current sightings of sevengill sharks in the area – including what depth or location they are currently frequenting. We are involved in the only sevengill shark tagging project in San Diego, and our countless hours underwater with these sharks has given us great experience working with sevengills.
We hope you found our encounters and observations informative and interesting – and hopefully helpful in learning about these amazing, occasionally misunderstood sharks!
To book a dive, please contact us.
Sevengill Shark Information
Broadnose Sevengill Sharks (Notorynchus cepedianus) in San Diego are one of our favorite animals to encounter while diving – most often at La Jolla Cove. Sevengill shark diving can be a very rewarding experience, and we hope our knowledge and experiences will help others to enjoy these awesome sharks, whether diving with SD Expeditions or not. Named after their seven gill slits (most sharks have 5), sevengill sharks are the only living shark left of their genus. The sevengill sharks in San Diego are a prehistoric looking shark, and you’ll be able to identify them by their unique behavior and features.
With a broad, blunt nose and only one dorsal fin set far back along their spine, their thick body shape resembles that of a submarine. The caudal or tail fin on sevengill sharks is also a little peculiar, with the upper lobe of the fin being much longer than the bottom one, adding a graceful touch to their swimming pattern.[one_half_first]
You can see that the upper lobe of their tail fins is much longer than the lower lobe, and also how far back their single dorsal fin is.[/one_half_first][one_half]
Their broad heads and seven gill slits are two distinguishing features of sevengill sharks in San Diego.[/one_half]
In March of 2013, the sevengill sharks of San Diego seemed to congregate heavily in the area around La Jolla Cove. Near and around the La Jolla kelp beds, divers began consistently seeing large numbers of sevengill sharks with peculiar scarring along their faces and bodies. The sharks seemed to congregate at depths ranging from 25-35 feet, with both males and females in the area. Male sevengill sharks mature at around 5 feet, whereas the larger females don’t reach sexual maturity until just over 7 feet.
It’s unsure why the sevengill sharks congregated in such numbers during the 2013 year, and it remains to be seen whether or not 2013 will continue to bring more sharks to the area. Some divers believe the sharks were mating in the area, citing the large amount of scarring visible on the sharks, and the fact that after about a month the reports of very large females in the area seemed to dwindle.
We have found that, generally speaking, if there is one sevengill shark in the area another one is close by. Some studies suggest they may be a social creature (which may be an indicator of higher intelligence), so look for a second or third shark in the limits of your visibility. If you’re lucky and the sevengill sharks are interested, they may begin to make tighter circles as they check out what you are. Enjoy the encounter for as long as they swim with you!
Look for two sevengill sharks in this photo – you can see the silhouette of the second shark on the left side of the photo.
Almost all of our interactions diving with the sevengill sharks at La Jolla Cove are along the bottom. Their methodical, slow swimming style allows for great photos and videos, and we’ve noticed a common behavior of the sharks is to dip their head just a little bit lower to the ground as they approach – perhaps a defensive or cautious posture. It can be tough to do, but if you have the discipline to NOT chase the sharks, we have the best encounters by settling down on the bottom and awaiting their return.[one_half_first][/one_half_first][one_half][/one_half]
With a little bit of patience, you can have some really close encounters!
As fun and amazing as sevengill shark diving can be, it’s always important to remember that in the San Diego and La Jolla area, sevengill sharks are the apex predators of their ecosystem. Always compose yourself in a manner that gives these sharks the respect they deserve, and we recommend against touching, aggravating, or antagonizing these powerful sharks.
Studies of the stomach analyses of sevengill sharks in Tasmania have shown that they are generalist, opportunistic predators – scientists found stomach contents ranging from bait fish to bottlenose dolphin, and everything in between. They are known to consume seals and sea lions (pinnipeds), though whether they feed on carrion (dead animals) or actively seek out healthy pinnipeds is not certain. Currently, sevengill sharks are thought to be more of a scavenging, carrion feeder rather than an active hunter, perhaps taking advantage of the record amount of dead and injured sea lion pups in the La Jolla area this year.
In this video by Kyle McBurnie, a sevengill shark regurgitates some food – which upon closer inspection was believed to be a morsel of sea lion.
If you’re looking to interact with the sevengill sharks around San Diego, La Jolla Cove may be one of the best dive sites to try. Being a shore dive makes it easy to get to, and you don’t need any kind of boat or vessel. There are certainly spots where we seem to have more sevengill action, but interestingly enough the ‘hot-spots’ change relatively quickly over time.[one_half_first][/one_half_first][one_half][/one_half]
SD Expeditions founders Nick (left) and Kyle (right) interacting with the San Diego sevengill sharks.
The photo on the right was taken by photographer Ralph Pace