A frightening warning for beachgoers to avoid the Newport Beach coastline into the Memorial Day weekend because of great white shark sightings is nothing more than fake, designed by a hoaxter to free up the area during the busy holiday, officials said Friday.
A flier made the rounds on Facebook Wednesday - purporting to be from the United States Coast Guard - claiming three separate shark sightings should keep people away from the beaches.
The fake warning claimed a security guard saw a shark eating a whale carcass 100 yards from the Newport Pier around 5:30 a.m. Wednesday, followed by the report of an aggressive 15- to 18-foot great white swimming along a charter fishing boat an hour and a half later.
- Download: Download the NBCLA Mobile App
It also alleged a shark bumped into two kayaks later in the day, only retreating after one of them hit the great white in the gill with an oar.
Local news from across Southern California
But the U.S. Coast Guard said it has not had any reports of great white sightings in the area and did not issue the warning.
“This release to the media was not generated by CG,” the USCG tweeted late Thursday. “There are no reports of a great white shark off Newport Pier.”
A Coast Guard official said Friday they believe the report was designed by a local to keep tourists off the beach during the busy holiday weekend.
Officials now say they think they may know who generated the bogus report, and the person may face charges for impersonating the agency.