Shark numbers along the East Coast have peaked ever since scientists began tracking them in 1986, showing animal protection measures have been successful.
According to federal researchers from the NEFSC (Narragansett Laboratory of NOAA Fisheries’ Northeast Fisheries Science Center), the number of this marine population has reached an all-time high in the region.
Shark numbers had been on a decline between the late 1970’s and the early 1990’s, owing to the fact that their meat had become a popular dish. The marine animals were particularly endangered because their life cycles are slow, and mating rituals occur only once or a few times throughout their existence.
However, survey leader Lisa Natanson now believes that regulations protecting sharks from abusive commercial and recreational fishing has been beneficial to their recovery. In 1993, a management plan was established, banning certain shark species from being hunted, and additional legislation has been promulgated ever since.
So far this year, 2,835 sharks belonging to 13 different species were captured and tagged in the waters between North Carolina and Florida, an increase of 55% from the figures reported in 2012 when the presence of 1,831 sharks was recorded.
Such research is usually conducted every 2 to 3 years, and has been performed for almost 30 years. Experts write down the location, age, sex and length corresponding to each of these marine animals.
This year, the most numerous species were the sandbar (discovered along the entire coast) and dusky sharks (mostly off North Carolina). Both of these shark categories had previously been severely reduced in numbers as a result of extensive fishing.
Other common species were the Atlantic sharpnose and the tiger shark, but researchers also encountered rarities such as great white sharks and bull sharks, which hadn’t been spotted in years. The largest shark experts tracked this year was a mammoth tiger shark, approximately 14 feet long.
This announcement related to the growing number of sea predators in the region comes after a series of vicious shark attacks that took place in North California from the beginning of June.
8 persons sustained injuries, the highest number of victims associated with shark incidents ever since the Florida Museum of Natural History began recording such events 8 decades ago.
However, marine experts suggest that people shouldn’t assume they are at a higher risk of being attacked, because the shark population has grown. Experts believe that recent incidents aren’t related to this record number of predators, but to other factors such as oceanographic conditions bringing the animals closer to the shore.
Actually, despite the spectacular increase, some shark species are still endangered and more conservation efforts should be made to ensure their recovery, insists Gregory Skomal, shark expert with the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game Division of Marine Fisheries.