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Coastal Shark Population in Southeast US on the Rise

Mar 01, 2017 09:42 AM EST

A new study led by scientists from Virginia Institute of Marine Science revealed that the most of the coastal sharks in the southeast United States experienced an increase in population since the enactment of NOAA's fishing regulations in the early 1990's.

The study, published in the journal Fish and Fisheries, showed that all but one of the seven species of coastal sharks that were analyzed has shown a significant recovery in their abundance.

"We've shown that after over two decades of management measures, coastal shark populations are finally starting to recover and reclaim their position as top predators, or regulators of their ecosystem," said Cassidy Peterson, a graduate student at William & Mary's Virginia Institute of Marine Science and lead author of the study, in a press release. "Our research suggests we can begin to shift away from the era of 'doom and gloom' regarding shark status in the United States."

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For the study the researchers pooled together data from six different shark surveys that were conducted long the US East Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico between 1975 and 2014. The surveys include seven of the most common coastal shark species in the region, This include the large-bodied sandbar, blacktip, spinner, and tiger sharks and the smaller Atlantic sharpnose, blacknose, and bonnethead sharks.

The researchers found that since the mid-1970s until the early 1990s the abundance of seven shark species greatly dipped due to over fishing. The sharp decline in the shark's population began after the release of the movie "Jaws" in 1975 and continued through the 1980s.

In 1993, the National Marine Fishery Service of NOAA enacted a management plan for shark fisheries, limiting both the commercial and recreational fishing of sharks. Following the enactment of the fishing regulation, the population of the six shark species experience a multi-year period of low abundance followed by an increased in abundance in the recent years.

However, the blacknose sharks in the Gulf of Mexico continue to experience a decline in their abundance until 2014. The researchers noted that this specie of coastal shark are prone to by-catch within the trawl fishery for Gulf shrimp.

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