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2015 Shark Survey Gives Numbers Behind Atlantic Sightings

Sep 08, 2015 05:38 PM EDT

Shark populations are improving along the U.S. east coast, according to the 2015 Coastal Shark Survey. The longest running coastal shark research survey of the East Coast recently completed field work that began in 1986. This year they captured and tagged 2,835 sharks, the largest number in the survey's history.

"We caught fish throughout the survey," Lisa Natanson, a scientist at the Narragansett Laboratory of the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) Fisheries' Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) and leader of the coastal shark survey, said in a news release. "Sandbar sharks were all along the coast, while most of the dusky sharks were off North Carolina. We captured a bull shark for the first time since 2001, and recaptured 10 sharks previously tagged by our program and two sharks tagged by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science."

The coastal survey runs from the waters of Florida to Delaware and is conducted every two or three years. During the last survey in 2012, only 1,831 sharks were captured and tagged.

"Sharks are very vulnerable. Even though they are at the top of the oceanic food chain and can live for decades, they are fragile in the sense that compared to other fish they grow very slowly, reproduce late in life and have only a few offspring," Karyl Brewster-Geisz, from the NOAA Fisheries Office of Highly Migratory Species, said in the release. "An increase in the numbers caught and tagged during each survey indicates a slow climb back. It is very good news for shark populations and for the ecosystem."

Some of the most common species caught this year were Sandbar, Atlantic sharpnose, dusky, and tiger sharks. According to the International Action Plan for Sharks, initiated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), many shark species are threatened.

"All the survey data are provided to NOAA Fisheries managers to monitor the health and abundance of shark populations in the Atlantic," said Natanson. "We've seen an increase in the number of sharks in every survey since 2001; that reflects management efforts to conserve the populations of various shark species."

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