The Coastal Shark Research Survey began in 1989 and covers the waters along the east coast from Delaware to Florida. The research groups goes out every two to three years, beginning in the winter and spring months in the south, following the migratory route of sharks north as the waters warm up.
This year, 2,835 sharks were caught during the survey, compared to the 1,831 sharks from the prior survey conducted in 2012. Thirteen different species were found with the most common being Dusky, Sandbar, and Atlantic sharpnose and Tiger sharks. Sandbar sharks were all along the coast, while most of the dusky sharks were off North Carolina. This year’s study was also the first time a bull shark had been caught since 2001. They recaptured 10 sharks previously tagged by their program and two sharks tagged by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.
The longest running coastal shark research survey along the East Coast has completed its 2015 field work, capturing and tagging more than 2,800 sharks, the most in the survey’s 29-year history. The results are very good news for shark populations.
The surveys are conducted in the 5-40 fathom (30 to 240 feet) depth zone with most sampling between 11-20 fathoms (66 to 120 feet deep) and use commercial Florida-style bottom longline fishing methods to standardize survey results. This method uses a long, or main, line with baited shark hooks spaced at regular intervals along the line.
Most (2,179, or 77 percent) of the sharks captured were tagged and released, 434 (15.3 percent) were brought aboard, and 222 (7.8 percent) were released untagged or lost. Researchers record the length, sex, and location of each animal caught. Environmental information, such as water temperature and ocean chemistry, was also obtained at each station.
“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.”
Shark Survey Summary
- 2,835 sharks caught
- Atlantic sharpnose, dusky, sandbar, and tiger sharks
- Three great whites caught, all less than 8 feet
- Largest shark caught was a 12.5 foot tiger shark
- First bull shark caught since 2001
- 77% (2,179) of sharks were caught, tagged and released
- 15.3% (434) sharks were brought aboard the research vessel
- 7.8% (222) sharks were released untagged or lost