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CSULB professor’s shark bill still afloat

Professor and shark guru Chris Lowe was on the edge of his seat Tuesday when the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee unanimously approved his shark funding bill.

Assembly Bill 2191 would allocate funding to the development of a White Shark Population Monitoring and Beach Safety Program. The bill would also award grants to schools, public agencies and nonprofits to further research regarding white sharks.  

Lowe explained to the committee that Southern California has seen an increase in the number of great white sharks over the past 10 to 15 years. He credited that to the environmental protections that were put into place a few decades ago, but said the lab lacks the tools to monitor them.

AB 2191 was written by Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell and cleared its first committee in a 15-0 vote. The bill is now headed for the Appropriations Committee.

Cal State Long Beach’s Shark Lab Director, Lowe, was called by O’Donnell to give his “scientific rationale” for the $4 million funding proposal, which will cover five years of great white shark research.

“We’re one step closer to getting funding, which is exciting,” Lowe said. “They agreed unanimously to move it forward, so hopefully that’s an indicator on how things are going to go.”

According to Lowe, he was only allowed to speak to the committee for two minutes, and no one had any questions after his testimony.

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

Lowe said that he is taking his sabbatical next year from teaching biology courses, and if the bill is passed, it will enable him to focus on shark research.

“It will mean I don’t have to teach for a year, so while I will miss my students in the classroom.” he said. “My grad students will be excited because I’ll get to spend a lot more time with them doing research.”

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