Shark sightings, detections increase near East Coast as summer unfolds

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Sharks are out in full force off the East Coast and around the Sunshine State just as beachgoers return to Atlantic waters this summer.

A shark attacked a man swimming near a fishing line off the coast of Florida’s Grayton Beach State Park Thursday, and officials in Volusia County responded to separate incidents involving a 12-year-old boy and a 71-year-old man Monday.

Farther north up the coastline, photos showed a dolphin swimming near South Carolina that had likely been mauled by a shark and near Rhode Island, a juvenile great white shark was recently tagged for the first time – though it was not the first to be detected in the area. 

SHARK ATTACK PROMPTS DRAMATIC RESCUE AT FLORIDA BEACH

As these marine apex predators move through the region, residents are taking note and local governments are taking precautions. 

Maine announced last month that its state beaches and coastal parks were set to adopt a flag system used in the nearby New England state of Massachusetts to warn residents of the presence of sharks.

The Pine Tree State saw its first documented fatal shark attack in July of 2020 and Massachusetts’ Cape Cod peninsula has seen the number of Atlantic great white shark detections increase since the species was designated as protected and as seal populations have continued to rise.

A 2018 white shark attack at Massachusetts’ Newcomb Hollow Beach that took the life of a 26-year-old man marked the first fatal shark attack in the state since 1936.

Jim Britt, communications director with the Maine Dept. of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, holds a new flag that will fly if sharks are detected near Maine beaches, Tuesday, June 1, 2021, at Crescent Beach in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Last summer Maine had its first documented fatal shark attack. Credit: AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty

Jim Britt, communications director with the Maine Dept. of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, holds a new flag that will fly if sharks are detected near Maine beaches, Tuesday, June 1, 2021, at Crescent Beach in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Last summer Maine had its first documented fatal shark attack. Credit: AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty

She advises that humans take stock of the fact that sharks hunt for seals in shallow water, avoid murky or low-visibility water, swim in groups and close to shore, limit splashing and adhere to signage and instructions from lifeguards. 

“It’s important for beachgoers to be aware of their surroundings and pay attention to signs, flags and safety guidelines,” she concluded.

To the West, juvenile great white sightings along the California coastline have also increased.

According to the May 7 issue of Del Mar City Hall’s Del Mar Weekly, Cal State University Long Beach Shark Lab’s Chris Lowe told local officials that new data showed the numbers of white sharks have been dramatically increasing over the past decade.

A similar study recently published in the journal Biological Conservation found that between 2011 and 2018, great white shark numbers in Pacific waters had risen.

Researchers from Stanford University, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center partnered and completed more than 2,500 hours of observation. 

They identified nearly 300 adult and sub-adult individual great whites – a figure up from a 2011 three-year study that found just 219 sharks.

Their research could indicate that measures to protect the species are working. 

That said, as LiveScience pointed out last month, white sharks are threatened by overfishing and poaching.

“It’s hard to estimate how many white sharks are in our oceans, as they are relatively rare. Research shows that protections for sharks have likely improved their numbers, particularly in the Northwest Atlantic,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries said in 2019

Notably, NOAA says there is “currently no evidence that sharks are spending more time near shore as a result of warming waters,” although the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says the impact of climate change is heating up ocean waters, subsequently impacting marine ecosystems like coral reefs.

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Earlier this week, NOAA and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced that the agencies had found that Earth’s energy imbalance approximately doubled from 2005 to 2019, examining satellite measurements and data from NOAA buoys.

In an emailed statement to Fox News, renowned oceanographer, marine biologist and Mission Blue President and Chairman Sylvia Earle called for action. 

“We need to convey a sense of urgency because the world is changing quickly. The next ten years is likely to be the most important time in the next 10,000 years,” she said. “We have options that we are going to lose within ten years unless we take action now. Every day, options close. Take care of the ocean as if your life depends on it because it does.”