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Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Shark Research Program

  • Tiger shark, Galeocerdo cuvier
    Tiger shark, Galeocerdo cuvier
    These occasional visitors to Virginia waters are usually found at least 10 miles offshore. They tend to come inshore at night and move into deeper waters during the day. They are opportunistic feeders on bony fishes, sharks, rays, sea turtles, sea snakes, sea birds, marine mammals, carrion, and garbage. Maximum length is 18 feet (females).
    Photo courtesy Dennis Liberson.
  • Scalloped hammerhead, Sphyrna lewini
    Scalloped hammerhead, Sphyrna lewini
    In the mid-Atlantic, these sharks migrate seasonally, over-wintering in warmer Gulf Stream waters south of Cape Hatteras. They arrive in Virginia coastal waters in June, and return south along the coast from August to October. They eat menhaden, mullet, flounder, and drums, crustaceans, stingrays, and small sharks. Maximum length is 14 ft.
    Photo courtesy Dean Grubbs.
  • Sandbar shark, Carcharhinus plumbeus
    Sandbar shark, Carcharhinus plumbeus
    These sharks are typically found over muddy or sandy bottoms to depths of more than 200 m (655 feet). They primarily eat small bottom fishes, mollusks, and crustaceans. The Chesapeake Bay is one of the most important sandbar shark nursery areas in the western Atlantic.
    Photo courtesy Chris Magel.
Sixgill shark

Shark researchers at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) investigate habitat use, age, growth, reproduction, food-web dynamics, and demographics of commercially, recreationally, and ecologically important shark species.

The VIMS Shark Research Program has been monitoring shark populations in Chesapeake Bay and off the mid-Atlantic coastline since 1973. This 38-year data set, collected using standardized, fishery-independent longline surveys, represents the longest running fishery-independent shark-monitoring program in the world.