A quick Google search for “shark” gathers a sample of the headlines of recent sightings. “Leopard sharks return to La Jolla Waters in Droves,” one reads, while another highlights “a group of young white sharks off the coast of the Pacific Palisades”. There has been a steady stream of such stories throughout the summer: sharks swim ghostly near unknown swimmers nearby.
If sharks are detected more than ever, it may be due to drones. In addition to driving scary headlines, drones actually help scientists dispel some misleading fears: it turns out that shark encounters aren’t actually that rare. People often don’t even understand when there are sharks around them, drone footage, and most of the time sharks don’t seem to pay much attention to people either.
“It’s a little scary to think there are cool whites out there. But at the same time, how many times I’ve been here, I’ve probably swum with countless people, you know, who have swum by. So I think ignorance is bliss in this case, ”surfer Robert Xaudaro said ABC 7 Eyewitness News last week in the story of a young white shark.
“Technology has really revolutionized and given us a completely different perception of smell,” says Chris Lowe, a professor of marine biology and director of Shark Lab at California State University in Long Beach.
In the past, scientists like Lowe were only able to jump on planes and helicopters to spy on sharks from the sky. It was a pretty pricey attempt, he says, and it was mostly used just to count how many sharks there were. With drones, everything has changed.
“We have an affordable tool that gives an insight, a kind of bird’s eye view of what sharks do, and most importantly: what they do in the vicinity of humans,” Lowe says.
Lowe’s research team struggles with about 700 hours of drone material they’ve either taken or received from others to study shark behavior and how they react to humans. Together in 42 seconds clip Seen from the California coast, five sharks can swim next to three wet-surfed surfers. People sit casually on their boards, their legs hanging in the water as sharks pass them by.
Video: CSULB Shark Lab
They have studied hundreds of interactions between humans and young white sharks. Although their research has not yet been completed or published, Lowella has a superficial analysis: “It seems that so far, sharks don’t care. They treat people as if they are flying, just floating debris on the surface. “Basically, sharks tend to ignore people unless they are chased or bullied.
It is a relief given that human-shark interactions may increase. Lowe’s investigation could ultimately inform authorities of decisions to close the beach if sharks have been found nearby. It will become a tougher requirement if young sharks spend weeks or even months at a time – potentially forced beach closures that could harm the local economy, even if these sharks do not pose a significant threat.
“From a public safety perspective, there has been no scientific evidence to support this. And now, for the first time, we have science, ”Lowe says.
Shark populations have returned to U.S. waters after dramatic overfishing, according to Lowe. Sharks have risen from the brink over the last 15 years. This year, Lowe says, this trend is likely to be the same as with more beach visitors as people come out of the closures caused by the pandemic.
“It’s part of the story. Another part of the story is climate change,” Lowe says.
Toxic algal blooms can also push sharks to new places, as cultivation and industrial runoff exacerbate red tides. Hundreds of sharks surprised residents of Florida’s Longboat Key last month as they gathered on local canals. Sharks are likely to seek refuge a red tidewhich absorbs oxygen from water and can kill marine life.
As more people and sharks collide, there are also more amateurs documenting with drones. Leisure enthusiasts have shared their pancreatic material with Lowe, though he quickly says it’s best if civic scientists are licensed drone pilots.
Whether all of this footage has contributed to the research or just ended up on YouTube or social media, Lowe says it has helped throw the shark in a new light. Sharks are in their natural environment – they have not been played as villains in the movie Jaws. “The bottom line is that drones have given people a different perspective because they see sharks around people and find that sharks don’t attack,” Lowe says.