Great White Shark Spotted Off North Carolina As Experts Expect Shark-Filled Summer

A great white shark was recently sighted off the North Carolina coast, presaging a summer in which experts warn that conditions will closely resemble 2015, a year that saw a record number of shark attacks in the region.

The white shark was spotted by a Coast Guard crew dispatched from the Fort Macon station on Tuesday, according to WNCN. When the patrol stumbled upon the great white, it was in the process of feeding on a deceased whale, a situation in which the little-understood species is commonly observed.

Some researchers from East Carolina University have posited that sharks frequent the area surrounding Pamlico Sound at various intervals throughout the year. These assertions are backed up by data from the shark-tracking non-profit group Ocearch, which attaches satellite tags to the predators in an effort to better understand their migratory patterns and habits. Several years ago, they tagged a shark named Katharine off the coast of Cape Cod, watching as she moved in a dramatic coastal pattern over the next few years.

Last summer, Katharine was tracked to the area around Pamlico Sound, spending several days there. At one point, the white shark even approached the mouth of the Pamlico River, though she did not signal from within its confines. Mary Lee, another shark tracked by Ocearch, has also been documented in the area around the Outer Banks.

While white sharks have been reported in the region repeatedly, they share it with a number of other species. Last year, a large tiger shark, named Chessie, was tagged by anglers off Hilton Head in South Carolina, as The Inquisitr previously reported. Though Chessie eventually moved North along the coast, she wasn’t the only shark frequenting local beaches, as a number of swimmers discovered the hard way.

In June and early July of last year, sharks bit eight beachgoers in North Carolina, three of whom were swimming in the Outer Banks. Other incidents were reported in South Carolina, and while no one was killed, several of the victims lost limbs in the attacks. It remains unclear what species of shark were responsible for the various attacks, yet none of those incidents were directly attributed to great whites or tiger sharks.

Now, experts are cautioning that the same climatic conditions that contributed to the unusually high number of shark incidents in 2015 could be repeating themselves in the coming year. As the Virginian-Pilot notes, water temperatures off North Carolina are already higher than usual, thanks to an unusually mild winter. This process brings species that sharks prey on northward, as they follow warmer water. In turn, the predators follow their prey, bringing them at times closer to shore and into situations where they are more likely to interact with humans (a higher number of whom are heading to beaches each year).

George Burgess, director of the University of Florida’s shark research program and the International Shark Attack File, observed that sharks are already migrating toward North Carolina, drawn by the record-high temperatures.

“I’m not going to predict the kinds of attacks you had last year in North Carolina, but you’ll see sharks earlier than usual. If they find the going good, they’ll stay for a while.”

It remains to be seen how the sharks will interact with beachgoers this year, and whether more or fewer incidents are in the cards. For at least a few of the predators, however, including one great white shark, North Carolina is already proving a welcome place to summer.

[Photo by Elias Levy – Own Work via Flickr | Cropped and Resized | CC BY 2.0]