LONG BEACH (CBSLA)  — Do you know what to do if you encounter a shark?

Running would be a good idea — if you’re on dry land. But if you’re in the water, swimming fast could be a problem.

Especially because the shark can swim faster.

In 2019, nearly 20 people have been attacked by sharks in the United States, Most of those attacks have occurred in Florida or Hawaii — but here in California it is shark season, baby shark season to be exact.

Encountering a shark — even a baby — is something one hopes they never will do, but as CBS2/KCAL9 reporter Joy Benedict learned, it’s best to always be prepared.

She reported from Long Beach where experts are teaching swimmers how to stay safe.

Summer means people will be flocking to the beaches in Southern California but what lurks beyond the surface of the Pacific has many asking questions.

Elijah may only be 6, but his knowledge of sharks is as good as anyone’s.

“They’re big and they have sharp teeth and they can bite you,” says Elijah.,

But the Shark Lab at Cal State Long Beach is hoping to improve all our knowledge when it comes to this very accessible predator.

“Our goal is to educate them so we can share the waves with these animals,” says Chris Lowe with Cal State Long Beach.

It’s called the Shark Shack and all summer long it will travel from beach to beach in Southern California.

The Shack will educate young and old with a hands-on experience.

There are teeth to touch, and skin to stroke and even a life-size sheet showing just how big the Great White can get.

It’s an exhibit that’s already making some beach goers see sharks a little differently.

“I actually love sharks when I’m snorkeling,” says one woman.

“It’s their environment and we’re invading it,” said another.

And we are seeing more sharks on our coast than ever before.

“There are more white sharks than ever before because their food source has come back so there’s a lot more marine mammals than there were 100 years ago,” Lowe says.

And although we are seeing more encounters and even attacks, scientists still believe they are accidents

“We don’t really know why sharks occasionally bite people but we do know it’s super rare,” says Lowe.

Cal State Long Beach is using robots and drones to track the sharks from beach to beach hoping to find a pattern, but in the meantime these scientists just want us to be alert, aware and educated about this carnivorous fish so that swimmers feel safe to go back in the water.

“I think that they’re cool,” says Elijah.

Benedict concurs. They are cool — from a distance. So bottom line, what should you do if you encounter a shark? Stare it in the eye.

Scientists say sharks are natural predators — if they think you’re not afraid of them or scared, then they will likely get bored and swim away. And at that point, Benedict offers, you might want to start doing the same thing.


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