Sharks are pinging off the Carolina Coast - we asked a shark researcher why

Tuesday, February 11, 2020
Cluster of sharks tracked off NC coast
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Cluster of sharks tracked off NC coast

Over the weekend, Ocearch posted to Facebook a cluster of sharks pinging off the southern North Carolina/Northern South Carolina coast, we wanted to know why.

RELATED | Dozens of sharks cluster off the North Carolina coast

Dr. Chuck Bangley is a researcher with the Smithsonian. We've previously worked with Dr. Bangley when profiling his research in Bull sharks and their colonization in the Pamlico Sound.

READ MORE: Bull Sharks moving into the sounds of North Carolina. Here's what that means for our coast.

The largest of the sharks being tracked off the coast are Vimy and Jefferson:

  • Vimy is 12-foot-9 and weighing 1,164 pounds. He was last spotted off the coast on Jan. 14.
  • Jefferson is 12-foot-7 and weighing 1,336 pounds. He was last spotted off the coast Jan. 19.
  • We asked Dr. Bangley why this might be happening and if there is cause for alarm.

    Question: There have been a cluster of sharks pinging off the southern NC/northern SC coast. Do you have any insight on why so many might be showing up?

    Dr. Bangley: "It's actually not that unusual for a bunch of sharks to be off NC during the winter. The Gulf Stream current stream current stays pretty close to the shore south of Cape Hatteras and keeps the water pretty warm. Lots of sharks migrate down from up north and stop for a while once they cross into those warmer currents. It looks unusual because there are more Great Whites being tagged every year. So there are more tag pings getting picked up but it might mean more sharks carrying tags rather than more sharks overall."

    Question: Do rising water temperatures have any play in this?

    Dr. Bangley: "That might be causing some clustering due to the sharks (or their prey) not having to move as far south as previous years, but really there have always been a lot of sharks overwintering off NC. With all of the tags out, we just have the ability to track more of them than we used to."

    Question: Should beachgoers be worried? Is there a time frame when we should start to see fewer of these sharks ping?

    Dr. Bangley: "The Great Whites are likely to head north in the spring. They're the same animals that are seen off Cape Cod in the summer (most of them were actually tagged up there).