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Shark Summer

White shark surfacing
White shark surfacing
Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Great white sharks have recently seen their populations along both the east and the west coasts of the United States enjoy a tremendous amount of growth. Recent surveys carried out by NOAA estimate the current great white population along the California coastline to be around 2,000 individuals. A similar survey conducted in the Northeast estimates populations along the east coast to be between 1,800-2,010 sharks.

This comes as great news to environmentalists, who have been trying for the last couple of decades to reverse the devastating impacts of shark hunting through increased conservation efforts. People in the west hunt sharks for sport or because they believe less sharks mean a safer environment, which all scientific data concludes is not even remotely true. In the east, sharks still fall victim to cultural traditions and outdated medical practices and as a result their numbers in the oceans to the east continue to suffer. In Chinese culture shark fin soup is a staple, but this usually means catching the sharks, cutting off their fins and tossing their bodies back into the ocean for them to drown. Eastern countries have also used sharks to make tools, eat their meat, use the oil in their bodies and even to create a pill made out of the sharks’ cartilage that they believe will prevent cancer. However, science has proven this claim to be completely unfounded and even more recent scientific research has shown that contrary to popular belief, sharks can in fact get cancer.

There has been a frenzy in the media this year because of the increased numbers of sharks in popular beach communities. A fisherman, Steven Robles, at Manhattan Beach, approximately 120 miles from San Diego was just attacked by a great white he had caught. Overall though shark attacks, especially from great whites, are very rare and on average there is only one in the United States annually. Researchers are not exactly sure what it is about Manhattan Beach that makes it such a popular spot for great white sharks, particularly juveniles, like the seven foot long one that attacked Robles. Great white shark sightings in the area have also increased lately, but most of these encounters have been non-violent.

It’s summertime, which can mean only one thing-Shark Week! It starts August 10 on Discovery Channel. Check it out if, like me, you just cannot get enough of sharks.