Is Global Warming Causing More Shark Attacks?


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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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North Carolina saw six shark attacks in the course of just one month, so of course news media is trying to link the unusually high amount of bites to global warming.

National Geographic published a piece exploring the different factors possibly driving last month’s shark attacks. One of the five factors influencing shark attacks the news outlet listed was “global warming.”

National Geographic claimed that as “warming is expected to increase, it will likely bring more sharks farther north and entice more people to get into the water, which will lead to more bites.” The news outlet noted earlier on in its article that “[m]ost shark attacks in North Carolina happen when the water reaches about 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 Celsius)” and that the “warmer weather has also brought more people to the state’s beaches and entices them to take a dip to cool off.”

Linking global warming to June’s spat of shark attacks in North Carolina was criticized by Cato Institute climate scientist Chip Knappenberger who cautioned against such claims.

National Geographic, however, did quote a biologist who cautioned against blaming man-made warming for the uptick in shark attacks. Frank Schwartz, a shark biologist at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, “says there’s too much natural variability in weather cycles to blame the recent shark attacks on global warming.”

Other shark experts, however, were more explicit about how global warming could impact shark attacks.

“It’s kind of a perfect storm,” George Burgess, the director of the International Shark Attack File at the Florida Museum of Natural History, told National Geographic and added that nationwide shark attacks are about normal for the year.

“Clearly global climate change is a reality and it has resulted in warmer temperatures in certain places at certain times,” Burgess said.

In the past, however, Burgess has said human beach activities are the main driver of shark attacks. For one thing, the population is increasing across the country and more people are going to the beach, especially during the summer time. That not only means more people in the water, but more people near baited fishing lines.

“Experts have theorized that all that bait and chum is attracting fish — and sharks,” ABC News reported. “Several of the recent attacks, including Friday’s attack on a 47-year-old father as he scrambled to get children out of the water, and two attacks on June 14 have occurred in close proximity to fishing piers.”

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