Jul 14, 2023 - News

Critter Corner: National Geographic's SharkFest features FIU professor

A shark swims toward a diver in a scuba outfit

A lemon shark near Jupiter, Florida. Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images

New footage that went viral last last week showed a shark near the shore at Navarre Beach, scaring swimmers out of the water.

What's happening: Mike Heithaus, a marine ecologist at Florida International University, tells Axios that shark sightings seem to be on the rise.

  • That's partly because of a proliferation of cameras and drones but also because conservation strategies are helping numbers rebound, he says.

Why it matters: Sharks are "functionally extinct" on scores of reefs worldwide. But regulations in the U.S. and the Bahamas have had some success protecting them, according to the Global FinPrint Project, an organization Heithaus is involved with that's trying to rebuild populations.

Zoom in: South Florida is home to numerous shark species, including blacktips, sandbars and great hammerheads.

  • "Most of these species are not dangerous to people and want nothing to do with us," Heitaus says.

Of note: SharkFest — a slate of shark-focused programming on National Geographic — is airing throughout July.

  • Heithaus is featured in five of this year's shows: "Bull Shark vs. Hammerhead," "Sharks vs. Dolphins: Bahamas Battleground," "Sharkcano: Hawaii," "When Sharks Attack 360, Episode 2" and "Saved From a Shark."

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