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Strengthening El Nino Possibly Linked To More Shark, Exotic Fish Sightings Off California Coast

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY (CBS SF) -- Warmer waters from a building El Nino may one reason for the recent great white shark sightings in Santa Cruz County.

As meteorologists detect the water beginning to gradually warm, marine biologists have noticed more juvenile sharks coming into shallow waters.

Many agree it's due to the sharks' food source coming to them.

"A lot of these same currents have been pushing exotic bait fish further north," Marine biologist Giancarlo Thoma said. "These fish are usually seen more so in southern California and Mexico."

Millions of red tuna crabs have already began washing ashore along the Southern California coasts -- an unusual sight that scientists recall happening right before the powerful 1997-98 El Nino event.

Yellowfish tuna, mahi-mahi and pufferfish typically found off the coast of Baja California were also caught that year along the Central and Southern coasts of California.

NOAA has  documented evidence of El Nino's impact on ocean life, specifically sharks, in the past.

Tropical and common pelagic thresher shark generally moves into California waters during periodic warm water episodes relating to El Nino conditions, according to NOAA's Southwest Fisheries Science Center.

While no one can ever perfectly predict climate, if a very strong El Nino sets up, California's history shows in these years, we are in for not only a wet winter, but a devastating one with potentially billions of dollars of damage.

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