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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.
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.