Long Beach, News

State assembly passes shark research funding bill

A bill intended to create a White Shark Population Monitoring and Beach Safety Program in California passed the state assembly floor Thursday.

Formally called Assembly Bill 2191, the program would grant funding to organizations involved in research on white sharks and the promotion of public safety in the state’s beaches. The bill states that the types of organizations it would fund consist of public agencies, nonprofit corporations and academic institutions.

“AB 2191 is about getting educated and staying safe in our local waters,” Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell said in a press release. “I believe it is important that we understand why we are seeing more sharks along our coast so that we can be prepared and safe at the beach.”

The bill will now enter the legislative process of the state senate floor. The deadline for the senate is Aug. 31. If passed, the bill will reach the governor’s desk to be signed, not signed or vetoed by Sept. 30.

According to Chris Lowe, professor and director of the Cal State Long Beach shark lab, Southern California has seen an increase of great white shark sightings over the past two decades. Currently, his lab needs for funding for resources to keep closer tabs on the marine animals.

“For the first time, we have all the technology to answer important questions about the white shark population and how they use our beaches,” Lowe said in a press release. “We just haven’t had the funding. Funding from this bill will enable us to provide lifeguards with information needed to enhance beach safety.”

Lowe described the funding this bill could provide, which is a five-year $4 million budget, as a “game changer,” stating that it would help him afford technology for the lab’s research and help him hire students to work alongside him in a full-time capacity.

“The students are still working largely for free,” Lowe said.

Technologies Lowe would like to use the extra cash for include underwater autonomous robots, which can help him discover more about beaches the white sharks gather at and what dwells on sea floors, as well as aerial drones that could assist in estimating shark populations.

Carlos Villicana contributed to this article.

This article was updated June 5 at 5:21 p.m. The bill would create require a council to create a program to allocate funding to organizations, academic institutions and agencies involved with white shark research and the promotion of public safety in California beaches.

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