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Tracking Jersey Shore sharks — they’re closer than you’d expect

Sharks off New Jersey’s coast are the main focus this summer for a group of students out of Monmouth University.

With the help of a land-based shark fishing expert, and a university professor, the group is tagging dozens of sharks now so that data-gathering related to their movements and behaviors can occur over the next 10 or so years.

According to MU biology professor Dr. Keith Dunton, who leads the small team, the Delaware Bay is one of the top nursery grounds on the East Coast for sand tiger sharks. In a matter of just hours on a recent night in South Jersey, 12 sand tigers were caught by casting baited hooks from the beach.

Sand tigers, sand bars and a variety of other sharks species have been tagged so far, thanks to efforts from guide service Apex Anglers and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

“The whole Mid-Atlantic region should have a healthy shark population because this is the central area to a lot of their life history,” Dunton told New Jersey 101.5.

Adult sand tigers, which can grow up to 11 feet and weigh up to 350 lbs., are not known to pose a threat to humans. But a drop in water depths near the shore keep these sharks closer to bathers than one would expect. At night, they draw even closer to shore.

Funded through the university’s Urban Coast Institute, the project allows for acoustic tagging of the migratory predators. When they swim by buoys or other receivers, information is recorded and gives researchers insight on the sharks’ behaviors.

Dunton said some patterns have already been recognized. Juveniles like one particular region of the water, and adults like another, for example. Most sand bar sharks being tracked are females, meaning the males may be utilizing a different habitat.

“We’ll be continuing tagging … throughout the summer to get as many sharks tagged as we possibly can,” Dunton said.

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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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