(NEW YORK) — Nearly 39 years to the day since Jaws first terrified audiences, a new report shows that the real thing is making a comeback — the United States is seeing a boom of great white sharks.
According to a study by a team of scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, since 1997, the white shark population has increased by an estimated 42 percent.
“Our white sharks and all of our sharks are the real balance keepers,” said Chris Fischer, founding chairman and expedition leader of research firm Ocearch. “We need them in our oceans. … There’s just no robust path forward for the ocean without lots of sharks.”
For years, the number of great whites plummeted — around the time Jaws was made, their population had fallen by 70 percent — but now they’re back.
The report credited the comeback to an increase in seals, their favorite food; a federal ban on hunting great whites; and conservationists’ efforts to change their image.
Fischer and a team of scientists put a geotracker on a great white named Katharine last year to track her journey from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to the Gulf of Mexico, and understand how sharks spawn.
A dozen or so other sharks were also tagged and named and are swimming off the East Coast and the west coast of Florida, as well as throughout the world.
There are four tagged sharks off the coast of Georgia; one each off the coasts of South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia; and two off the coast of New York’s Montauk.
Katharine now has 12 fans following along online.
“People have fallen in love with her,” Fischer said. “I think that people are fascinated with the sharks for the first time ever. … I’m just thrilled the whole world is just jumping into the project.”
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