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Friday, July 4, 2014

The Great White Shark Makes A Comeback

Past studies suggested a global decline in great white shark populations, but researchers recently found that the trend has reversed. (Joachim Huber/Flickr)

Past studies suggested a global decline in great white shark populations, but researchers recently found that the trend has reversed. (Joachim Huber/Flickr)

Great white sharks are making a comeback — along both the East and West coasts of the United States. Two recent studies published in PLOS ONE, from the Public Library of Science, found that great white shark populations are rebounding in both the Atlantic and the Pacific after years of decline.

“As apex predators, they have a special place in our eyes as poster children of the sea,” George Burgess, the director of the Florida Program for Shark Research, tells Here & Now’s Robin Young. “Having the biggest and baddest shark go down the tube is not good, and seeing it come back is a good thing.”

Burgess said shark populations have come back after over three decades of protections from the United States government.

Burgess says even though there are more sharks in the sea, there is no reason to think that shark attacks on humans will rise.

“We enter the sea naked and dumb millions of times a year, and only about five times a year we don’t come out,” Burgess said. “When we enter the sea, we’ve been within 10 and 15 feet of a shark several times in our lifetimes.”

Burgess says that shark attacks occur when the shark mistakes a human for prey.

He offers the following tips for peaceful coexistence with sharks:

  • Don’t swim after dark, as that is when sharks are most active
  • Don’t swim near the mammals that are part of a shark’s diet — such as seals — and don’t swim near schools of fish
  • Swim in a group, not by yourself
  • Don’t wear jewelry or any other shiny items when swimming, as a shark might mistake the glint of your jewelry for the glint of a fish’s scales.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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