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Sharks spotted close to shore in Carteret County during summer

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BEAUFORT, N.C. -

How close would you get to a shark? If you're at the beach in Carteret County, sharks may be a lot closer than you think.

"Almost any time you're in the water, there's going to be a shark somewhere near you," said Dr. Joel Fodrie, an assistant professor of fisheries ecology at UNC Chapel Hill's Institute of Marine Sciences in Morehead City, who studies sharks.

Sharks can get as close as 10 feet away from shore, said Fodrie. From 10,000 feet in the air, they can be seen feeding on naturally occurring swarms of fish called bait balls.

"Usually we see them congregating at the end of Cape Lookout and also on Shark Island," said Robert Seip, a pilot with Southern Air at Michael J. Smith Field in Beaufort, where he gives tours of the coast.

Seip says around August, he starts seeing sharks on a regular basis.

"Sometimes it surprises me to see them in the Sound, rather than on the oceanside, and also to see how large they are and how close they can be to where a lot of the tourists go," said Seip.

Fodrie he says the sharks are attracted to mullet, menhaden, and other fish that come close to shore this time of year.

"To some degree, it's a matter of protection. They're probably trying to get shallower and avoid sharks and bigger fish," said Fodrie.

Thousands of tourists come to the Crystal Coast, many unaware of what's lurking nearby.

"It's a beach. You know there's sharks, but you think they're so far away. To know they're there, that's scary," said New Bern resident Laketta Coleman, who visited Pine Knoll Shores on Tuesday.

Fodrie says if you see a shark at the beach, don't panic, that if you stay calm, the shark should stay calm too.

"It's extremely rare for humans to elicit an aggressive response from a shark," said Fodrie.

Fodrie says most of the sharks that come close to shore are 4-6 feet long, and pose little threat. He says if they get close, just enjoy the view of a large animal in its natural habitat.

A mixture of shark species come to shore in the summer and fall, including black-nose and sharp nose sharks, said Fodrie.

OCEARCH Global Shark Tracker tracks the navigational pattern of sharks that have been tagged with satellite tracking technology for shark conservation. Here is a link to their website: http://sharks-ocearch.verite.com/

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