Researchers Say Growing Number of Great White Sharks Off East Coast Is 'Very Normal'

"Sharks are amassing on the east coast," a recent viral tweet stated, with a screenshot from the OCEARCH shark tracker that revealed a large number of great white sharks off the Eastern Seaboard

great white shark
A shark. Photo: Getty

After a recent viral tweet showed a growing number of great white sharks in the waters off the East Coast, researchers are assuring beachgoers that there's no need for alarm.

Chris Fischer, the founder of the nonprofit OCEARCH, said that it's not uncommon to see swarms of great whites in that region during this time of year, as they tend to hunt in the North Atlantic before migrating south for the winter season. "It's very normal," Fischer said, according to NBC News.

"They go up to New England and Atlantic Canada in the summer and fall," he added. "They forage up there, bulking up and putting on weight, and then when it starts to get cold, they move down to their winter habitat, primarily between Cape Hatteras and Cape Canaveral."

Last week, Twitter user @punished_stu posted a screenshot from the Ocearch shark tracker, which revealed a large number of tracked sharks pinging off the Eastern Seaboard.

"Sharks are amassing on the east coast," they wrote in the viral tweet, which has since amassed more than 50,000 likes.

Since 2007, OCEARCH has tagged and tracked 431 sharks, sea turtles, seals, and other marine animals throughout the world's oceans as part of the organization's mission to research climate change and how it affects ocean life.

"We're putting a stake in the ground for climate change because we're documenting the movement of the sharks now," Fischer said. "Then, ten years from now, or 20 years from now, we'll be able to do a project like this again and see if there's been any shift in their migration. We're creating that baseline data right now."

The app has recorded at least 80 great whites per day for the last week, NBC News reports.

After a shark attack hospitalized a Northern California surfer in June, David Ebert, program director for the Pacific Shark Research Center, told KNTV that sharks don't usually target humans. The shark involved in the surfer's attack likely thought the human was a seal.

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"[Humans] are not on the menu. We occasionally have shark incidents like we did today, but it's generally very rare," Ebert said. "In the case of surfers, they probably can't make out exactly what it was. They know there is something there but doesn't have the same type of vibe that a seal does. It's probably a lot of times where you see the bite and spit. Where the shark will bite the surfer and let it go. It's probably more of an investigatory action."

A recent study by Australian researchers found that juvenile great white sharks — responsible for most of the great white attacks on humans — are either completely color blind or have a limited color perception, contributing to their inability to differentiate between humans, seals, and walruses.

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