UPDATE: California Budget Approves Funding Request for Shark Research, Beach Safety

Dr. Chris Lowe (left), director of Cal State Long Beach’s Shark Lab, and Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach). Photo courtesy of Assembly Democratic Caucus by Jeff Walters.

UPDATE | The Legislature approved the 2018-19 budget Thursday and included Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell’s request for funding to research increasing shark sightings along the California Coast, O’Donnell’s office announced.

Included in the budget is $3.75 million for the Cal State Long Beach (CSULB) Shark Lab to conduct research on the growing number of sightings and incidents in local waters.

“It is critical that we understand why we are seeing more sharks along our coast so that we can be prepared and safe at the beach,” O’Donnell said in a statement. “We secured funds for shark research and beach safety with the assistance and expertise of CSULB Shark Lab Director Dr. Chris Lowe. I am confident that the results of this important work will have a meaningful impact for the families and neighbors who frequent our local beaches.”

The budget will take effect July 1 after being signed by Governor Jerry Brown.

PREVIOUSLY: Bill to Increase Funding for Research on Increasing Shark Activity Moves Forward

4/26/18 at 2:28PM | Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell’s (D – Long Beach) measure to fund research on the increasing shark sightings along the California coast passed the Assembly Water, Parks & Wildlife Committee Tuesday, O’Donnell’s office announced.

https://lbpost.com/life/new-bill-announced-to-fund-academic-research-on-white-sharks/

“We are seeing sharks along our Long Beach coast today more than ever,” O’Donnell said in a statement. “As a parent and a teacher, our kids’ safety is my top priority. AB 2191 is about educating ourselves so we can keep our kids safe. The more we know about the behavior of the sharks along our coastline, the better prepared we can be at the beach and in the water.”

The bipartisan, 15-0 vote in favor of Assembly Bill 2191, the White Shark Population Monitoring and Beach Safety Program, which now moves to the Appropriations Committee, followed a hearing that included testimony from Cal State Long Beach (CSULB) Shark Lab Director Dr. Chris Lowe, according to CSULB.

“For the last 10 to 15 years, we’ve seen an increase in the number of white sharks,” Lowe said in a statement. “We believe this comeback is connected to environmental protections that were established several decades ago. The good news is that they are coming back. The tricky part is that we lack the tools to monitor them.”

O’Donnell introduced the measure in collaboration with CSULB’s Shark Lab, which has been on campus since 1966. O’Donnell recently partnered with the lab to hold “Shark Day,” which highlighted the lab’s work monitoring and studying sharks, which would be eligible for funding through AB 2191. O’Donnell also said during the hearing that record numbers of shark sightings last year had overextended the lab’s resources, according to the release.

https://lbpost.com/news/education/shark-day-at-csulb-serves-as-community-education-event/

“The numbers of sharks at our beaches were so high that Shark Lab researchers ran out of shark tags,” O’Donnell stated. “We must be willing to invest in those who are doing the work. This is a human, environmental and economic issue.”

Lowe said the lab currently lacks the funding to keep up with the demand for tags and monitoring of this influx of sharks, which jeopardizes their efforts to learn about white shark behavior to help lifeguards and law enforcement inform the public about beach safety.

“We are seeing unprecedented numbers of juvenile white sharks hanging out in the surfline alongside swimmers, surfers, paddle boarders and others who recreate in the ocean,” Lowe said in a statement. “This is prompting more sightings, warnings and closures at local beaches than in recent memory. While this is alarming for beachgoers, this influx—coupled with better technology—is a perfect opportunity for us to find out why these sharks are staying closer to shore for longer periods as they grow bigger.”

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Asia Morris has been with the Long Beach Post for five years, specializing in coverage of the arts. Her parents gave her the name because they wanted her to be a world traveler and they got their wish. She has obliged by pursuing art, journalism and a second career as a competitive cyclist.
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