The longest running coastal shark research survey along the East Coast has completed its 2015 field work, capturing and tagging the most sharks in the survey’s 29-year history.
Lisa Natanson, a scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration’s (NOAA) Northeast Fisheries Science Center and leader of the coastal shark survey, told South Carolina Radio Network that more than 2,800 sharks were tagged.
“Sandbar sharks were all along the coast, while most of the dusky sharks were off North Carolina,” Natanson said. “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.”
The survey was conducted aboard the 100-foot charter fishing vessel Eagle Eye II from Port Royal, South Carolina, from April 4 to May 22. The survey range was from just south of Ft. Pierce, Florida to North Carolina. Poor weather and time prevented sampling further north, the agency said.
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 long line 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.
“All the survey data are provided to NOAA Fisheries managers to monitor the health and abundance of shark populations in the Atlantic,” Natanson said. “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.”
NOAA Fisheries is the federal agency charged with managing commercial and recreational shark fisheries in U.S. waters, including the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. The United States shark management began in 1993; currently 42 species are managed.