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Researchers diving in to find answers to local shark encounter increase

Posted at 5:41 PM, Apr 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-10 23:29:57-04


What is the reason behind a growing number of shark encounters in our Gulf waters?

Scientists at the Harte Research Institute spend days in harsh conditions fishing and tracking sharks in the Gulf of Mexico.

Those offshore trips can take days. Research students returned from a 56-hour trip Wednesday.

Graduate students said it’s difficult to determine if there have in fact been more shark sightings because of climate, or if more people are just deep sea fishing in our Gulf waters.

“So it may be just an encounter thing, rather than a number of increased sharks,” Kesley Gibson said. “But data does show that we are starting to see more sharks.”

Gibson is a graduate student at Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi. Engineering students there designed special cameras that attach to a shark’s dorsal fin. That technology allows researchers to track their migration patterns.


Gibson and her team are still constantly researching whether or not these migration patterns have anything to do with water temperature, food supply or ocean currents.

However, she noticed an interesting difference in the behavior of male and female sharks.

“We are seeing two kind of separate migration patterns. We have adult males that are around seven and a half to eight feet long that have both left the Gulf of Mexico,” Gibson said. “We also have some females that are around ten to twelve feet that stay in the Gulf of Mexico, and it’s likely they are staying here because it’s a mating ground, or pupping ground. So they’re having their babies here, and the males just come in to mate and then leave.”

As an expert, Gibson said there is a misconception about the entire species and the likelihood of being attacked by a shark while in the water.

“We’re not on their dinner menu. It’s an accident if you encounter one,” Gibson said.