New study shows rise in shark population


PINE KNOLLS SHORE, Carteret County - A new study shows shark populations are on the rise along our coast. Shark researchers studying shark population are excited about findings in a new study which revealed that the numbers of sharks in their natural habitats have risen.

"Scientists are starting to realize that sharks are important to our and how difficult it is to restore their populations as they are a lot different than other fish, so when they are over fished it takes them years and years to recover," says Ara McClanahan, an aquarist at the North Carolina Aquarium.

A team of researchers led by scientists at the Virginia Institute of Marines Sciences collected data from along the Atlantic coast, including the Eastern Carolina shores and all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico. Much of that data showed numbers of certain coastal species have indeed recovered and continue to do so after many years of a dangerous decline in their population due to human activity and demands which prevailed in the 1990s.

"In the past, sharks have been over fished for their fins for their meat and liver oil," said McClanahan, who is an avid diver and shark enthusiast.

Through the study, researcher found that efforts put in place to assist with the recovery of shark populations, such as limiting fishing and enforcing regulations are actually working.

"Population is increasing of coastal species which the study addresses. Seven species all of which are found here in North Carolina historically we have had really great population of black tips, sandbar fish and spinner fish so they have always been here and have always thrived," McClanahan said.

Randy Gregory with the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries said North Carolina is a perfect habitat for sharks and he is not surprised by the findings of the study.

"We have a lot of sharks in North Carolina, we are at an interesting place geographically with warm and cold waters and we see the different sharks throughout their migration through our area so we have some healthy populations," said Gregory.

He added that efforts to assist with repopulation such as monitoring various sharks species, their migration and breeding patterns are showing results even right in the waters along the Carolina coast.

"We have noticed in the last several years that we are seeing more sharks and we are seeing more sharks in the sampling that we do and the fishing that we do to get the information that we need," Gregory said.

Both experts say the study confirms what local fishermen and leisure boaters have been reporting, which is that they are seeing more sharks out in the ocean. But they advice beach goers and swimmers not to panic as a rise in population doesn't equal a rise in shark attacks. They added that people using marine habitat for recreation should remember that it's home to some of the world's rarest creatures and should treat it with respect.