ECU researcher says 2016 could be another historic year for shark attacks

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – Following a historic 2015 for shark attacks, one researcher at ECU said the possibility is there for yet another one in 2016. During 2015, 98 unprovoked shark attacks were reported worldwide, shattering the old record of 88 back in 2000.

Eight of those unprovoked attacks happened along the North Carolina coast. Chuck Bangley, a researcher at ECU who studies sharks, said last year’s spike most likely had to do with water temperature and timing.

“These animals like to follow those temperature changes, and they follow the leading edge of the temperature change,” Bangley said. “So they’re going to be right where it went from cold to warm.”

Due to an unusually warm winter, water temperatures along the East coast are already above average.

So far, this winter ranks as the 4th warmest on record for Cape Hatteras. The average March water temperature there is 52, but reports already have the water temperature listed at 56 just two days into the month.

The trend runs all the way down to Florida beaches, where both Daytona Beach, with a water temperature of 69, and Miami, with a water temperature of 76, are both above average.

“No doubt we are running a little above normal, ahead of schedule so far this time of year,” said WNCT’s Chief Meteorologist Jerry Jackson.

Jackson said warm winters don’t necessarily mean spring or summer temperatures will also be above average.

But given the warm water temperatures already, Bangley said sharks haven’t migrated as far South as they normally do. He said the ingredients are present for another possible historic year for shark attacks.

“We may see another mass migration like we had last year, or we may see kind of a more tapered kind of migration,” he said.

According to the Florida Museum of Natural History, the three North Carolina counties with the most shark attacks recorded are New Hanover, with 13, Brunswick, with 12, and Onslow, with 10.

Both Dare and Carteret Counties had 8 attacks recorded.


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