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Great white shark population is booming, researchers say

Researchers say great white population booming
Researchers say great white shark population off East Coast is booming 02:52

As summer begins and people spend more time in the ocean, researchers are on the verge of learning more about the mysterious apex predators that swim beneath the surface. On a research ship in the Atlantic Ocean, twelve miles off the coast of North Carolina, a group of scientists have been studying and tracking great white sharks. 

"We're seeing an ocean that's teeming with life like we haven't seen since the '40s or '50s," Chris Fischer, founder of the research organization Ocearch, told CBS News. 

Ocearch has been studying and tagging great white sharks for the last decade. In that time, Fischer has observed an increase in the number of white sharks. 

CBS News covered the first instance of Ocearch tagging a great white in 2012, a 15-foot shark which Fischer at the time called maybe "the most important fish we've ever caught in our lives." 

Ocearch has now studied more than 90 great whites sharks, tracking their migration patterns online. 

"We know almost everything except for proving where they mate," Fischer said. 

CBS News observed as bait was thrown into the water, prompting sharks to emerge and surround the ship. After a female shark about 15 feet along was lifted onto the ship, researchers worked rapidly, almost like a NASCAR pit crew, to install satellite tags, draw blood and even perform an ultrasound, all while the shark was awake. They only have 15 minutes that they can keep the animal out of the water. The team pumped sea water through the shark's gills to ensure she stayed breathing. 

Within minutes, samples were collected for 24 different scientific studies, including one that would test the shark's hormone levels to discern whether she was mating. 

Chief scientist Dr. Bob Heuter maintained a healthy shark population is better for the entire planet. 

"As we bring them back, then we set the ocean back into balance and reset the system so that we have the best health [not only] for the sharks, but for ourselves," Heuter said. 

"We actually need to retrain ourselves on how to play and enjoy a more wild, abundant ocean," said Fischer about the fact that there are more great white sharks swimming among us. 

"Look at the ocean before you walk into it," Fischer added. "You don't want to walk into a bait ball with birds diving on it and game fish on it because the sharks are going to be on it. Certainly if you saw a mountain lion putting a stalk on a herd of elk, you wouldn't walk out into the middle of the elk herd. So we need to approach the water the same way we approach the land."

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