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The two women have more in common than each being a mother to three children.

Both belong to a very small group of people who can say they survived a shark attack.

Leeanne Ericson, who nearly lost her life at San Onofre State Beach a year ago, and Maria Korcsmaros, who found herself in a sharks mouth two years ago while swimming off Newport Beach, are the only two people locally who have escaped deadly shark attacks — and lived to tell about it.

And thats what theyll do on May 24 in Dana Point. Together for the first time, theyll tell their harrowing shark stories in public.

The “Shark Stories” discussion, hosted by The Orange County Register, will include some of their rescuers, as well as experts who can shed light on the uptick of shark activity and what surfers and water enthusiasts want to know as we head into summer – is it safe to get in the water?

A shark situation[hhmc]

Increased sightings spanning from Ventura down to San Onofre have been a talker along the coast, with beach goers worrying about the growing number of sharks close to shore. Advocates say protections on sharks are working, and the influx of young sharks show signs of a healthy ocean.

The sightings of juvenile sharks first garnered attention in the South Bay about five years ago, when surfers and paddlers reported them swimming in the surfline, likely searching for food like sting rays and small fish.

But after a swimmer was attacked by a larger shark in 2014, which moments earlier had been caught on a line by a fisherman on the Manhattan Beach pier, the situation drew national attention.

About three years ago, the sharks started showing in bigger numbers in Huntington and Seal Beach. Last summer, they were seen frequently off Long Beach, Dana Point, San Clemente and San Onofre.

The recent sightings have prompted beach closures along the Southern California coast.

Shark panel[hhmc]

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The upcoming panel discussion will be moderated by OC Register reporter Laylan Connelly.

Chris Lowe, director of the Shark Lab, will open up the discussion about why theres been an influx of sharks, and how researchers are trying to learn more about their migration patterns. Lowe will be available for the first 45 minutes of the event.

A sign on the beach warns beach goers of sharks in the water as team from California State University Long Beach Marine Shark Lab prepares to tag sharks. MARK RIGHTMIRE, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
A sign on the beach warns beach goers of sharks in the water as team from California State University Long Beach Marine Shark Lab prepares to tag sharks.<br />MARK RIGHTMIRE, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

The discussion will also include Ralph Collier, founder of Shark Research Committee, who has been collecting data on sharks along the Pacific Coast for decades. A recent report shows shark attacks were on the rise in 2016, especially on kayakers.

Joining the discussion is marine biologist and shark advocate David McGuire, founder and director of Shark Stewards, which helped build a coalition leading to the passage of the California Shark Conservation Act. Retired Doheny State Park ranger Jim Serpa will be on hand with his extensive shark collection, showcasing skeletons and other shark artifacts collected through the years at local beaches.

Ian Cairns, a former pro surfer, will talk about his effort to install a Shark Mitigation Systems called Clever Buoy, which can send alerts to authorities and the public when a large shark is in the vicinity. Cairns will talk about his recent experience in Western Australia, where two shark attacks last month prompted the cancellation of a surf contest. He believes Orange County is in the infancy stages of what his hometown of Western Australia is experiencing with sharks.

The event is sponsored by Dana Wharf Whale Watching.

When: Thursday, May 24. Doors open at 4:30 p.m. with the event starting at 5 p.m.

Where: Aventura Ocean Club, 24707 Dana Drive, Dana Point

Cost: $10 (RSVP at ocregister.com/shark-stories). Cash bar available.

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