California white shark researchers are one step closer to getting funding that would help them in their quest to learn more about great white sharks, a proposal that would also help improve public safety as an increase in the shark population has some beach-goers on edge.
California White Shark Research Bill
Assembly Bill 2191 — formally called the White Shark Population Monitoring and Beach Safety Program — earned a unanimous vote by the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee last week. The bill was authored by Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach) and created in conjunction with Long Beach State University’s Shark Lab, where director Chris Lowe and students have been studying the increasing populations off the Southern California coastline for the past decade.
The funds – unspecified at this time – would be dispersed over five years to various research groups along the coast. It would help fund expensive technologies, like using smart tags on great whites, using underwater robots that can track sharks and their food sources, or even testing waters for shark DNA to find out how many are in concentrated areas.
“For the last 10 to 15 years, we’ve seen an increase in the number of white sharks. We believe this comeback is connected to environmental protections that were established several decades ago,” Lowe said in a news release. “The good news is that they are coming back. The tricky part is that we lack the tools to monitor them.”
More White Shark in California?
The Southern California coastline has seen an influx of sharks close to shore in recent years, groups of dozens and more gathering in “hot spots.”
There were frequent shark sightings near surfers and swimmers in the South Bay, Santa Monica and Ventura about five years ago. Then they showed up in Huntington, Surfside Beach and Seal Beach in higher-than-normal numbers about three years ago. Last summer, a group of juvenile sharks took residence in shallow shores of Long Beach, as well as further south off Dana Point and San Clemente.
The juvenile sharks that live close to shore are of little danger to the public, experts say, because they eat small catch like stingrays. That’s also a reason they may be showing up in big numbers near the shoreline, as beaches like Huntington report an influx of stingrays. But when the sharks get into the 10-to 12-foot-long range, they start investigating larger mammals to munch on—and not much is currently known about the behavior of these larger sharks.
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