ECU researchers finding success studying sharks

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BEAUFORT N.C. (WNCT) – ECU researchers are spending another summer on Back Sound studying sharks in North Carolina. They’re focusing their efforts on understanding how, and when, shark utilize inner waterways.

Chuck Bangley, one of the researchers studying sharks, said they have been catching a variety of species near Harkers Island and the Beaufort Inlet, including Bull, Black Tip, and Atlantic Sharpnose sharks.

“The most common shark is definitely the Atlantic Sharpnose shark, which is a small species that can occur in large groups occasionally,” Bangley said.

WNCT’s Josh Birch was taken out with researchers as they try to understand more about sharks. ECU researchers were joined by Samantha Ehnert, a researcher from University of North Florida.

“I feel like the population would be better if they educated themselves that these sharks are not mindless killing machines,” Ehnert said.

Ehnert brought a line they use in Florida to catch larger sharks, with the hope of having luck in North Carolina.

Given the record number of shark attacks this summer in the state, Bangley said if swimmers are nearby, they won’t bait the water and instead will move somewhere else.

“We only leave our gear out for half an hour so that’s not long enough to start pulling in sharks from outside the area,” Bangley said. “We’re primarily interested in the sharks that are already there.’

Late last summer, Bangley started tagging some of the sharks he caught. By doing so, researchers could use their receivers, and other receivers along the East coast, to track where and when sharks travel.

After hours had passed with no luck, researchers set their last line near Radio Island and the Beaufort Inlet. After 30 minutes of soaking, Bangley started reeling the line in. At the end of it was an 8 1/2 foot male Bull shark, the largest he had caught over the last two summers.

It was caught less than a few hundred yards from the closest swimmers.

“He probably passed by a lot of the bathers we saw earlier today without even paying them any mind,” he said. “And that’s really what 99.9% of the interactions between people and sharks are.”

The shark was so big that Bangley didn’t have the appropriate gear to tag it. He said people shouldn’t be afraid of getting in the water, as sharks have always been swimming with them.

If you’d like to volunteer on a shark tagging trip with Bangley, email him at bangleyc09@students.ecu.edu.

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