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Is there any truth to any of the shark attack theories?

Posted at 7:12 PM, Jul 02, 2015
and last updated 2015-07-02 19:12:58-04

Hampton Roads, Va. - What is going on?  That's the question a lot of people are asking right now, this after seven shark attacks along the North Carolina coast over the past few weeks.

However, not only are there questions, but there are a lot of theories, too.

"When I first heard of the shark attacks, I was fairly surprised because I know that the Carolinas are not a particularly hot spot for shark attacks.  Something strange is going on," said Dr. Sam Gruber, director of the Bimini Biological Field Station in the Bahamas.

So what is really going on?

"Why we're seeing so many human-shark interactions this year?  I don't know if we have a really strong handle on why that's occurring," said Jim Gartland, assistant research scientist at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

NewsChannel 3 asked Gartland about some of the shark attack theories.  One theory says we're seeing more shark attacks because of the warm ocean water.  Another theory says there are more bait fish swimming in those warm waters, making it a buffet for sharks to feed.

"Warmer waters, maybe there's been an influx of bait inshore so the sharks are following their food source in.  The fact that it's been so warm on land, now you have more people going into the ocean, which increases your probability of an encounter," said Gartland.

Fishing near swimmers is yet another theory.  Sharks can sense bait and blood from a good distance.  Fishing can also confuse sharks, making them more likely to bite.

Other theories include global climate change and that the water off North Carolina is saltier than usual, due to a lack of rainwater flowing off land into the ocean.  Sharks tend to like salt.

There's even a theory out there that says the moon is to blame.

"I would think it would probably impact shark behavior as well.  We see differences even in small fish and how they behave relative to the lunar cycles.  So certainly, again, just like the other theories that are out there, it's a viable one," said Gartland.

But again, Gartland says they're all theories.  We have a lot more to learn about sharks and why they behave the way they do.

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