Some sharks are sticking around Carolina coasts longer and coming sooner

(WPDE file footage)

Hearing there could be more sharks along the Carolinas might not be what you want to hear. Before you panic, shark experts say you don't need to worry.

New research shows some species of sharks are coming to the Carolina coast earlier than normal, and staying longer.

Dr. Stephen Kajiura is a marine biologist and shark researcher. He's been studying the migration patterns of blacktip sharks and this year he saw a big change with their FL migration pattern.

“They are leaving the Carolinas probably later, they are not going as far and they are probably coming back earlier. So the total amount of time that they are spending in their summer area, the Carolinas and Georgia, is probably increasing," he said.

Water temperature might be the reason; globally the ocean water temperature is rising.

There are other shark species that appear to be making changes to their migration patterns.

Coastal Carolina University's Shark Research Team studies and tags sharks along the coast.

Graduate student Caroline Collatos studies the migration pattern of juvenile sandbar sharks.

“In 2016 we were able to see that our juvenile sharks migrated out of the area in October. But in 2017 they migrated out of the area in November, and we attributed this to changes in water temperatures because water temperatures were a degree and a half warmer in this specific bay in 2017, versus 2016," she said.

This is a trend that researchers, like Masters of Science candidate Matthew Larsen, said they're tracking.

“Species we didn’t used to see until late March, early April, we’re seeing at the end of February, early March and it does seem to be a trend that we are noticing as time goes on," he said.

With more sharks sticking around, there is a greater chance you will have an encounter with one, Kajiura said.

"There is a greater chance that there might be an unfortunate interaction, but on the other hand, the other point I would make is, the probability of an encounter is vanishingly small in the first place, and so even if it does increase, it’s still going to be really, really small," he said.

Shark experts urge people not to panic, just be smart.

“My best advice would be to use common sense. Don’t go into the water at night, don’t go into really murky areas. And we have a lot of bait balls in the area, it’s a lot of fish. Schooling fish will come through at different times of the year, don’t swim through the middle of a bait ball," Larsen said.

The Florida Museum reports there were 10 shark attacks in South Carolina in 2017. The state's annual average is five.

OCEARCH tracks tagged sharks. If you would like to see any sharks in our area, click here.

For more information on the CCU Shark Research Team, click here.

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