‘No different from a neighborhood dog’: California researchers study impact of sharks on local economies

Southern California swimmers, surfers and businesses have adapted for life with juvenile great white sharks. Now researchers who have been studying sharks for years are trying to understand their impact on the local economy.

Chris Lowe, director of the Shark Lab at Cal State Long Beach, told CBS News correspondent Carter Evans that juvenile great white sharks, those under the age of 7, that live off the coast of Los Angeles County , usually ignore people – but sometimes they get curious.

“No different than a neighborhood dog, is it? You walk around with someone and the dog comes and sniffs you,” Lowe said.

Evans joined Lowe’s team as they entered shark-infested waters. The researchers used a huge fishing net to capture and tag some of the marine life that the sharks might feed on. Lowe said people aren’t on the menu. But, on the rare occasions when a shark bites a person, it’s national news. The Shark Lab wants to understand the impact of shark bites on local economies, both positive and negative.

Lowe said that a few years ago, the Huntington Beach City Council disclosed that there was a loss of $7 million in hotel bookings following a shark attack at Camp Pendleton, over 60 miles from Huntington Beach.

But there is also evidence that shark bites can have the opposite effect. A West Virginia University study found an initial spike in hotel bookings three days after an attack, but after that, bookings plummet.

Economist Dede Long is working with the Shark Lab to study the financial impact of public reaction to shark attacks.

“Some people might think, ‘Oh, I take this very seriously, I don’t want to go to the beach,'” Long said. “But some people might think, ‘Oh, that’s really exciting. I really want to take this opportunity. “”

Santa Barbara surf shop owner Sam Holcombe said the sharks weren’t hurting his business.

“When I educate paddle board renters about sharks, very few choose not to go,” Holcombe said.

Tourism professor Katie Dudley, who also works with the Shark Lab, said sharks were low on the list of concerns for beachgoers.

When Evans hit the water again with searchers near where the fishing net was placed, they found a great white shark nearly 9 feet long.

“Oh, absolutely,” Dudley replied when asked if people were going to watch the sharks. “That’s why this team is so great and unique – because we approach it from all angles, so hopefully we can create a truly sustainable model to help have a thriving tourist destination right next door. of a thriving shark population in our oceans.”

Comments are closed.