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Shark population dramatically increasing along Texas Gulf Coast

Shark population dramatically increasing along Texas Gulf Coast (Photo: WOAI)
Shark population dramatically increasing along Texas Gulf Coast (Photo: WOAI)
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According to scientists, sharks are quickly increasing in numbers along the Texas coast.

"With the work that the government is putting in, we’re definitely seeing a lot more sharks,” said local fisherman Cris Southers. “A lot healthier sharks [too].”

Throughout the last few weeks, multiple fishermen have received media attention after catching large sharks along Texas beaches.

"If you’re in the water, you’re likely near a shark,” said Dr. Greg Stunz, a professor of marine biology.

According to Dr. Stunz, the shark population along the Texas coast is larger than it has been in years. The professor credits the increase in shark numbers to new U.S. government regulations, and education.

“They’ve really rebounded, due to stricter regulations,” said Dr. Stunz.

The professor works alongside the Harte Research Institute, an organization the tracks and studies the movement of sharks.

“Understanding where animals go, their migration patterns, are important towards understanding the species,” said Dr. Stunz.

One of the sharks tagged by Harte has been tracked from the Corpus Christi area, to New York, and back.

According to Dr. Stunz, local Texas fishermen help with the research.

“My goal is to get this shark in, tag it for research, so we can see where they go,” said Southers.

We joined Cris Southers, and his friend Jimmy Limon, for an afternoon of shark fishing near Corpus Christi.

Southers and Limon are on a shark fishing team called, “Jetty Rats." Like many Texans, their team is competing in the “Texas Shark Rodeo," a tournament that encourages shark fishermen to catch and release sharks for points and research.

Within a few hours, the two friends reeled in a 10.5-foot tiger shark.

“It's extreme,” said Limon. “You never know what you're going to catch.”

Southers spent almost an hour reeling in the 500+ pound shark. We asked Southers what it was like reeling it in.

“Like hooking my truck,” said Southers.

Video from our World Car Drone Cam shows the giant fishing twisting and turning from above.

Once the shark was close to shore, Southers and Limon jumped in the water to begin the scientific process. Within minutes, the two “citizen scientists” grabbed a DNA sample, took measurements, and returned the shark to deep water. GoPro video shows the shark whipping its tail, and swimming with strength back out to sea.

"Our goal is to make sure they swim off healthy,” said Southers. “Get them out as quick as we can."

DNA samples provided by tagged sharks in the “Texas Shark Rodeo” are given to the Harte Research Institute for research. In addition, the tags put on by fishermen, help scientists track the large fish as they migrate.

"You have citizen scientists that are participating through their passion and sport, and contributing to our knowledge base, in terms of what we know about sharks,” said Dr. Stunz.

With more sharks, you might expect for there to be more attacks. According to the Shark Attack Database, there were 71 reported shark attacks off Texas between 1865-2016. Five of those bites resulted in death.

“Once you step foot in that salt water, you're in their world,” said Southers.

According to National Geographic, the odds of getting bitten by a shark are roughly 1 in 3,700,000.

“You’re much more likely to die from a crazy person biting you that thinks he’s a shark, than an actual shark,” said Dr.Stunz.

While research continues to better understand these apex predators, experts agree that an increase in sharks is good for the ecosystem.

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"Most people don't realize, when they're in the water, they're in the water with sharks,” said Dr. Stunz. “We're simply not on the menu."

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