NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) – Scientists are reeling in new data that beachgoers and ocean swimmers may want to keep in mind on their next trip to the coast. A new study from researchers at the University of Miami shows that certain species of sharks including hammerheads, bull sharks, and nurse sharks have been spending more time near the coast of populated areas in search of food.
“You think of humans in big cities snacking on fast food, it looks like the sharks are doing that too,” said Dr. Neil Hammerschlag with the University of Miami. “And it’s, you know, we’re seeing some of those nurse sharks actually get a bit fatter, wider.”
Officials with the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher say these sharks should not be cause for concern.
“We want people to know that sharks are a natural part of that ecosystem out there in the ocean,” said Andy Gould, the aquarium’s education curator. “They’ve been here a lot longer than we have and they like to eat things like fish and plankton and lots of different things that live in the ocean. They’re not really out there looking for us.”
Gould says around 70 different species of shark can be found along the Carolina coast, but they all need our help.
“We need to find ways to learn more about them and be able to better protect them in our environment,” said Gould.
Hammerschlag says that starts with keeping the coast clean for sharks and other animals that call the ocean home.
“Through noise pollution, light pollution, chemical pollution, fishing, that’s going to have an impact on the local shark population,” Hammerschlag said. “So, I think we’ve got to think about being good neighbors.”
Despite “Shark Week” being a popular event on television, enthusiasts say these sharp-toothed creatures are still mainly a mystery.
“I would get really excited about any kind of research we see about sharks because there is so much we don’t understand about sharks and what they’re doing out in the ocean,” Gould said.
The aquarium will host Shark and Ray Awareness Day on July 14. More information can be found here.
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