Great white sharks are migrating along the NC coast. A marine life expert explains why

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Great white sharks typically gather along the North Carolina coast in the winter but researchers aren’t sure why it happens.

Sara Mirabilio, a fisheries specialist at the North Carolina Sea Grant Extension Program, a state and federally-funded program that “provides research, education and outreach opportunities relating to current issues affecting the North Carolina coast and its communities,” was prompted to research the topic after an angler hooked a “mystery shark” along the coast.

“This juvenile white shark was literally in the surf zone at Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head, that an angler off the pier caught it,” Mirabilio said, adding that the shark was later released.

Research shows that the spot where the shark was caught – and others like it – could serve as a temporary habitat for young great whites.

Why are sharks here?

A recent study shows that shark migration patterns in the winter may have something to do with water temperature.

A research team looking to study the migration patterns of young great white sharks used satellite and acoustic to track them remotely over two winter periods, Mirabilio wrote in a blog post for the N.C. Sea Grant.

The study found that juvenile sharks “were distinctly inhabiting different geographic areas,” where the water was warmer, Mirabilio said.

“A lot of them did come to our coastal continental shelf waters, and those waters are less than 300 feet,” Mirabilio said referring to the younger sharks. “You don’t really get this from adults. Adults are in deeper waters.”

Will the presence of sharks lead to attacks?

Though there have been a handful of unprovoked shark attacks in North Carolina in recent years, the young sharks likely won’t approach swimmers, Mirabilio said.

“These are small sharks,” said Mirabilio. “If anything, they’ll give you a little nip, but I really don’t see these juvenile white sharks posing a threat to humans.”

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