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Jennifer Kennedy

More Sharks Than Usual in Gulf of Mexico

By July 9, 2009

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News about sharks is not always bad. Researchers and fishermen are seeing more sharks than usual in the Gulf of Mexico this summer, and are hopeful that sharks are making a comeback.

Just as an example, researchers from Mote Marine Laboratory caught a record of 80 sharks from 8 species in 4 days during their quarterly shark-tagging trip, held last month. The species caught were the bull, blacknose, lemon, blacktip, nurse, great hammerhead, scalloped hammerhead, and tiger shark.

Scientists are not sure why sharks are so prevalent this year. Bob Heuter, director of Mote's Center for Shark Research, was quoted in a News-Press article, saying, "It could be a variety of things. It could be weather patterns. It could be the fact that we haven't had red tide for several years, so the system is rebounding, and there's a good amount of food out there for sharks. Shark regulations have gotten tighter and tighter over the last 15 years, so some of that is having an effect."

But, he cautioned, "we're still not seeing them in the numbers that we used to decades ago."

In a sidebar with shark tips, the paper said, "The increase in the number of sharks doesn’t mean they will start chewing people up along area beaches. A person is more likely to be killed by lightning than by a shark."

I commend the paper for using this news as a conservation story rather than hyping shark attacks. The article's side bar does have several tips for avoiding shark attacks, if you are interested in that information, as well as facts on some local species, including the bull shark, tiger shark and great hammerhead shark.

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