March 8, 2024
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VIMS Shark Research

Pictured: Dustin and Jameson Gregg prepare to dehook and tag a sand tiger shark (Carcharias taurus) before releasing it back into the water. 

By Linda Cicoira

The Virginia Institute of Marine Science is celebrating 50 years of pioneering shark research, the longest-running study of its kind in the world.

In 1974, the agency’s Virginia Shark Monitoring and Assessment Program established permanent survey locations and generated global awareness of shifting shark populations. This research resulted in the first U.S. management plan for sharks in 1993.

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VIMS continues its work by monitoring multiple species and studying and attempting to forecast changes in shark movements and habitats.

“As apex predators, sharks spark a race for survival up and down the food chain, ensuring the strongest come out on top,” said Dr. Robert J. Latour, a professor of Marine Science and the director of the VIMS’ shark research program. “That leads to healthier marine ecosystems and better overall experiences for humans, too.”

“Whether you love majestic seascape, thrilling watersports, or the delicious Virginia seafood we can never get enough of, it’s all protected by ecosystem management tactics informed by the discoveries we make at VIMS,” Latour added.

Before the start of the monitoring program, VIMS completed a successful pilot study of Atlantic shark populations in 1973. Then in 1975, the film “Jaws” was released sparking widespread shark hunting. In the 1980s, the lowest numbers of Atlantic sharks on record were reported.

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In 2013, a Virginia juvenile sandbar shark program was launched to assess nurseries, and in 2017, research indicated Atlantic shark populations were showing signs of recovery.

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