North Carolina has been in the headlines this summer season for an unusual number of shark attacks in a short period of time. This spike occurred back in June, when there were 8 shark bites in just 2 weeks.
No one can say fur sure sure what species of sharks are responsible for the incidences. With somewhere around 50 differnet types of sharks known to inhabit North Carolina waters, 20 are considered relatively common. Of that 20, 10 or so—blacktip, spinner, tiger, and bull sharks, to name a few—have been implicated in biting people. The two most serious attacks, where swimmers lost limbs, were most likely due to bull or tiger sharks. The other six bites probably came from smaller species.
Several early reports have pointed to potential factors like record sea turtle nesting and high ocean salinity due to low rainfall drawing salt-loving sharks to the area. The sharks’ behavior could be due to “some shift in ecology,” says Dr. Joel Fodrie, an oceanographer who directs the shark research program at the University of North Carolina’s Institute of Marine Sciences, but it’s too soon to pinpoint the affects of those shifts with certainty. A change in wind patterns, for example, could be bringing shark treats like mullet or menhaden closer to shore.
Recent Preliminary Study:
UNC Charlotte professor Pamela Thompson had her graduate students go through a process of data mining in order to see if there were any information that could point towards a cause for the outbreak of attacks.
Paul Barrington,director of husbandry and operations at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, wants people to remember that sharks have more reason to be afraid of us than we are of them. Some 250,000 sharks are harvested for fins and meat every day across the planet, plunging shark populations into a steep decline they may never recover from, he says. “The sharks are in far more peril than us as humans.”