East Coast Shark Populations Hit Record Numbers

Posted: Sep 11 2015, 5:13am CDT | by , Updated: Sep 11 2015, 9:40pm CDT, in Latest Science News


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East Coast Shark Populations Hit Record Numbers
A sandbar shark is brought aboard for tagging. Credit: Lisa Natanson, NEFSC/NOAA.
  • Shark Populations at an All-Time High off the Eastern Coast of the USA

The shark populations are at an all-time high off the eastern coast of the USA. This shows that the efforts by marine conservationists have bore fruit.

A lengthy survey off the eastern coast of the United States tagged some 2800 sharks. This is the largest the population has been for the past three decades or so.

The sharks were caught and tallied during the course of the survey. Sandbar sharks, dusky sharks and even bull sharks were among those examined by the team of marine biologists.

It was in the mid-80s that this survey began in earnest. It gets renewed every two to three years. The examination of these intelligent sea creatures takes place from Florida to Delaware.

This is the migration path taken by the sharks between the freezing winter and the sultry summer months. Going along this route on a large fishing vessel, the team of researchers found no difficulty in observing and tagging the sharks.

“We caught fish throughout the survey,” said Lisa Natanson, a scientist at the Narragansett Laboratory of NOAA Fisheries’ Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) and leader of the coastal shark survey.

“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.”

Three years ago, over 1831 sharks were identified. This year, more than 2835 were spotted. This is a huge amount. It proves that a little elbow grease goes a long way in saving marine life from near extinction.

Atlantic sharpnose and tiger sharks were seen too. There were three other sea life forms too and they included: the remora, the cobia and the gold spot eel. According to the experts, sharks are delicate creatures.

Although they are at the crown of marine life thanks to their carnivorous nature, they have several factors working against their flourishing in the ocean environment.

Their growth is retarded and their reproduction takes place fairly late. Furthermore, the number of baby sharks are few and far between. The only point in their favor is their longevity.

“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,” said Karyl Brewster-Geisz of NOAA Fisheries Office of Highly Migratory Species.

“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.”

An amazing variety of fish were tagged this year. The researchers did a good job with diligence and honesty and the efforts paid off in the end. Finally, shark populations are back to normal and the worries regarding the survival of these bold and beautiful beasts of the deep are over.

While tagging them, the length, gender and locality of each shark species is noted down with exactness. And after being tagged, the sharks are released back into the oceanic waters to go about their usual business of living their lives.

“The number of fish this year was amazing. We captured and tagged more fish than ever before, but once again weather was a factor. It started off nice, but conditions worsened as we headed north,” said Natanson.

Unfortunately, a minority of the sharks do not survive the tagging process and so they come in handy for dissection and further research purposes.

“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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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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