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By Eric Heinz

When the city of San Clemente closes its beaches due to shark sightings, surfers bemoan the act; Mariah Meyer, however, becomes excited.

A San Clemente native, graduate of JSerra Catholic High School and volunteer at the Ocean Institute in Dana Point, Meyer said she became interested in studying sharks from her marine biology classes. She will attend California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) next year to study marine biology and play water polo.

Mariah Meyer interacts with a nurse shark on April 18 at Stuart’s Cove in The Bahamas. The San Clemente native intends to study shark behavior and migratory patterns in college. Photo: Courtesy of Mariah Meyer
Mariah Meyer interacts with a nurse shark on April 18 at Stuart’s Cove in The Bahamas. The San Clemente native intends to study shark behavior and migratory patterns in college. Photo: Courtesy of Mariah Meyer

One video clip particularly got Meyer’s attention. Her high school class watched a snippet of world traveler Anthony Bourdain visiting a Southeast Asian country where a litany of shark fins had been stacked along a wall as trophies.

“Ever since then, I’ve been really obsessed with sharks,” Meyer said.

Meyer said she’s done about 35 scuba dives near sharks and 10 dives where she’s been able to swim with the sharks.

“I really like the big sharks, the same ones that (CSULB) is working with, and I want to know their migration patterns. They’re pretty hard to study.” Meyer said.

On her website, Saving the Sharks, Meyer has compiled lists from The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and she provides information on shark behavior and anatomy from her school textbooks. Meyer is also an advocate of laws that protect sharks in U.S. and international waters.

“The problem is we’re protecting endangered sharks but not the other ones that are being hunted for their fins,” Meyer said. “Even though the U.S. is enacting these laws, it’s not going to matter if we can’t get Thailand and South Korea and Spain on board.”

Meyer said she understands the fear people may have due to the recent shark activity, but she also said the sharks are a sign of clean waters.

“You should be concerned if you don’t see them in our ocean,” she said. “Sharks are the sign of a healthy ocean, but if you don’t see sharks, then you know there is a problem.”

Meyer said she wants to get her master’s degree and work with Chris Lowe, Ph.D., the director of Shark Lab at CSULB and local expert on shark behavior. After that, she said she wants to take time studying shark behavior and eventually get her Ph.D. in ichthyology, which is the study of fish.

On Monday, June 26, another shark at least 8 feet in length was spotted by multiple witnesses and a lifeguard patrolling the area near the San Clemente Pier and T Street. The sighting prompted a eight-hour closure, which is the San Clemente Marine Safety Division’s policy.

To learn more about sharks and Meyer’s endeavors, visit www.savingthesharks.com.

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comments (5)

  • the great white sharks seam to be very abundant and over populated ,,a open season and or size limit should be a discussion to keep our citizens safe

    • George, we could also understand that when we enter the ocean we are entering the home of these animals.

      Besides, our citizens are safe. There have been 79 total shark attacks in the entire state of CA in the ten year span from 2006 to 2016. According to the CA Office of Traffic Safety, there were 389 people injured or killed in traffic accidents in 2014 in San Clemente alone.

      I think you should shift focus if you really want to save lives. Why not closing down all roads and culling cars instead? Hundreds would be spared each year. Or we can continue to be irrationally afraid of sharks and kill these keystone predators because they have big scary teeth and are utilized by Hollywood to be an easy villain.

      Also, before calling for a cull on any apex predator, I suggest you look into the removal of wolves from Yellowstone and how it literally reshaped the landscape there.

  • i realize that your professor and you make your money thru this animal and your need to justify the unsafe program of protection of these apex predators ,, is fine,, and also your personal business plan

    but this appex predator ” me ‘ makes his living also from the sea and as a professional captain and a person that believes in health and safety and also a biological that needs nourishment , and as a business man that thinks that open and safe beaches are better for business than shark infested ones ,, a thinning of the herd is appropriate GREAT WHITE THE OTHER WHITE MEAT ?

    ( never kill just to kill ) the natural count is far more blues , sand ,angles ,leopard sharks than schooling whites

    • George, I don’t know what professor you’re referring to. I’m not currently involved in academia. In fact, I’m currently a dive professional so if anything I’m also financially affected by the presence of these sharks in the water.

      If you’re referring to the professors I’ve worked with previously, they studied mostly rockfish but were ecologists. Ecologists realize that everything in an ecosystem is interconnected. The sharks feed on the sea lions who in turn feed on the fish and invertebrates. As a professional captain I figure you value local marine life?

      I’m also concerned about your plan to consume white shark meat. White shark has very high mercury levels. Shark meat on average contains .979 ppm mercury while other fish such as trout have .071 ppm mercury average.

      Isn’t it hypocritical to preach health in safety and yet are recommend we feed on a fish that is much more unsafe than fish found lower on a lower trophic level?

      Again, I encourage you to read about how removing apex predators can reshape our ecosystems. Here’s a link below.
      https://www.yellowstonepark.com/things-to-do/wolf-reintroduction-changes-ecosystem

      Removal of the sea otter as another keystone predator is also a lesson of how we reshape ecosystems by removing apex predators. This is also one that has reshaped Southern California’s oceans.

  • no one should eat the whole shark or its organs got it ,, i wonder do sharks get hatter’s disease ?
    the future of diving is in aquaculture not shark petting ,,,otters are way cool and dont attack swimmers ,,,or close beaches yet :::::(-:P

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