NC Aquarium on Crystal Coast leading shark research

PINE KNOLL SHORES, (WITN) - North Carolina Aquariums are leading the way in many studies of the Sand Tiger Shark.

The North Carolina coast is widely considered the graveyard of the Atlantic and while that's bad news for boaters it's great news for divers and the hundreds of species of animals that thrive around the wreckage, including the Sand Tiger Shark.

Right now there are multiple research efforts underway to better understand the sharks, considered gentle giants.

Research is hoping to help people understand how shipwrecks are being used by these sharks, the role they play and get a better sense about what healthy sand tiger sharks look like in the wild with that information researchers hope they'll be able to better protect them.

Aquarian Director Hap Fatzinger said, "There's concern in the population there was extreme over fishing in the 70's and 80's that results in a huge population decline so that population has been struggling but we feel like we're seeing that we're seeing good numbers of these animals along our coastline."

The research also involves getting information from community members. Since the program was launched last June, researchers have gotten a lot of valuable information about the habits of these sharks with the help of submitted pictures.

"Spot a Shark USA is a citizen science program and it's goal is to connect members of the general public who are adventuring under or on the water in Sand Tiger Research and conservation efforts," said Marine Ecologist Avery Paxton.

By conducting the research and including the general public in their efforts, researchers are hoping to better understand the impact humans have on sharks, and better ways to ensure the sharks will be around for generations to come.