MIAMI – The next time you go to the beach and take a dip in the ocean, here’s something to consider – sharks may be closer than you think.
That’s what University of Miami shark researchers found after conducting a nearly five-year study. It involved tagging three different species and tracking their movements.
The researchers were shocked to learn that sharks didn’t avoid urban areas and that could impact their health.
“To our surprise, the sharks did not seem to avoid Miami. They didn’t spend as much time in urbanized polluted waters as they do in natural habitats, but they also didn’t avoid them either,” said Neil Hammerschlag, director of the University of Miami Shark Research and Conservation Program.
For the study, researchers tagged bull, nurse, and great hammerhead sharks. They then tracked their movements using listening stations placed throughout our waterways.
“All three species didn’t avoid urban areas, but nurse sharks are much more resident, they spend much more time in any spot. Wherever they are, they spend more time there. They are less mobile than a bull shark or a hammerhead which move over large areas more frequently,” said Hammerschlag.
Going into the study, he said they thought sharks would behave like land predators and avoid loud sounds and large populations, but that wasn’t the case. What they found has caused concern about how it will impact the sharks’ health.
“As an environmentalist and shark researcher, the concern is that these animals, not avoiding the city, might be at risk of being exposed to contaminants in the water supply or just poor food quality,” said Hammerschlag.
He added that the study shows we need to continue to find ways to better co-exist, now knowing that sharks are closer than we think.
“We need to understand that wherever there is salt water, there could be sharks. We need to be good neighbors and treat the ocean well because there are animals that live there and figure out how we can co-exist,” said Hammerschlag.
Researchers say the next step in this study is to continue to monitor the sharks’ health to see how these urban areas can impact them.