Shark populations are on the rise along the East Coast, experts say.

  • Coastal shark populations are up, experts say
  • Sharks were overfished starting in the 1970s
  • Population increase should benefit ecosystem, expert says

William and Mary's Virginia Institute of Marine Science measured the populations of seven species of coastal sharks from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico.

The shark population began taking a hit in the 1970s because of overfishing, but thanks to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries management plan, sharks were closely monitored and protected.

Experts say beachgoers shouldn't be alarmed by the increase.

"People who love our coast who come to the beach shouldn't be scared, and it's very, very, very unlikely to get bit or have a close encounter with a shark while you're actually swimming," said Ara McClanahan, an aquarist at North Carolina Aquariums.

Experts also say the increased shark populations will benefit the ecosystem by regulating other species below them in the food chain, like shrimp, clams and scallops.