Is a shark lurking nearby? New tech gives early warning

Shark attacks on both coasts over the Memorial Day holiday weekend are raising new concerns about beach safety this summer. But new technologies like drones could make swimming less risky, despite reports of a growing shark population, reports CBS News correspondent Carter Evans.

When you look out at the ocean, unless you see fins sticking out of the water, it is hard to tell when sharks are nearby. Researchers are, in effect, now testing surveillance equipment which would give people an early warning if they're swimming with sharks.

Shark researcher Chris Lowe and his team may seem like they're on an ordinary jet ski trip, but what they're doing is really an example of high tech on the high seas. They are diving into the oceans off the Southern California Coast, tagging sharks with transmitters near popular beaches. They're tracking shark movements to find out why the population of young great white sharks is growing so close to crowded shores.

"They come in because there's a lot of abundant food like stingrays, and the water's warmer," Lowe said.

Last year, there were 98 unprovoked shark attacks worldwide -- the highest on record -- resulting in six fatalities. A female swimmer was hospitalized Sunday after receiving multiple bite wounds to her upper body from a suspected great white at Newport Beach.

Lowe said he's not surprised to see a shark attack so early in the season.

"I think the rate of shark attacks is going to continue to go up. There are more and more people using the ocean than ever before," Lowe said. "The other thing -- in some places, like the U.S., we're seeing recovery of shark populations. So you put those two things together, you will see more shark attacks."

Shark trackers are also using drones to give them eyes in the skies.

Scientists are also using underwater cameras to count the number and types of sharks swimming by. A versatile research tool called the "wave glider" uses solar and wave power to propel itself. Stanford researchers are using it along with floating buoys to track adult sharks they're tagging in Northern California.

"New technology is actually changing the game. It's giving us insight into how these big sharks make decisions," Lowe said.

Hopefully, by learning more about the decisions sharks are making, beachgoers can make a more educated decision themselves about whether to enjoy the ocean or just the ocean view.