Story at a glance
- Shark populations off the East Coast are rising — and, along with it, shark sightings.
- As more Americans head to the beaches for the summer, several shark encounters have been reported along the coast.
- At the same time, the endangered white shark population seems to be recovering.
Summer is beach season, which means it’s also shark season. Several shark sightings up and down the East Coast have beachgoers on alert as the population grows.
There are more than 70 known sharks off the East Coast right now, according to the OCEARCH shark tracker, including four great white sharks. These sharks were designated as a protected species in most federal waters in 1997, and while the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy says the stock status remains uncertain, conservation efforts seem to be paying off, tied to increases in seal populations in areas like Cape Cod.
“Before gaining federal protection in the late ’90s, it’s estimated that the population of great white sharks in the Northwest Atlantic may have declined as much as 80% as a result of fishing pressure,” AWSC CEO Cynthia Wigren told Fox News. “Over the past decade, great white shark sightings and catch records have increased, suggesting some level of population recovery, but the status of the species remains uncertain. Conservation efforts are critical to the long-term survival of the species.”
In the last few weeks, Fox News reported an attack off the Florida coast and a sighting near South Carolina, as well as another near Rhode Island. With several sightings in the Cape Cod area so far this year, Maine is joining Massachusetts in using a shark warning flag system after its first documented fatal shark attack last July.
Odds of being injured by sharks remain low — in the U.S. an average of one person is killed by sharks each year, compared to 100 million sharks killed by humans each year — but several encounters have been reported. Last year was the deadliest year for shark attacks in the country since 2013, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History’s International Shark Attack File, with three fatal unprovoked bites in the United States, but attacks around the world decreased for the third consecutive year.
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