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Ocearch founder explains why fear of shark attacks is "irrational"

Ocearch founder says people have "irrational" fear of sharks
Ocearch founder says people have "irrational"... 06:00

Recent shark attacks on both coasts of the U.S. are raising new concerns about beach safety.

A man in knee-deep water in South Carolina was nipped Monday by a small shark. Over the weekend, a swimmer was bitten in North Carolina, two weeks after a similar attack in the same area. And last month, a suspected great white bit a woman on her torso and shoulder in Southern California.

But Ocearch founder and expedition leader Chris Fischer believes the heightened fear is "statistically irrational."

"I mean, you're talking about a handful of people - six people or so a year," Fischer told "CBS This Morning" Tuesday. "It's really a statistically irrational fear, compared to what we do in our everyday lives, whether it's driving a car, making a piece of toast."

Fischer said that being aware and taking some "common sense" precautions could help prevent the attacks.

"Look at the water before you go in and if you see a bunch of seals and it's dusk and there's a lot of bait, move down the beach," Fischer said.

As for California, May and June are birthing season for the great whites. The mature, larger female sharks go to the area - a big part of the juvenile nursery - to drop off their pups.

But last year was an all-time record for shark attacks worldwide. Fischer attributes the rise to increased activities in the water and better technology.

"Wet suit technology is better. People are doing all sorts of activities all year round and primarily, those are like ankle biters - small sharks," Fischer said.

Fischer and his team have used the boost in technology to their advantage. "CBS This Morning" has been following the fishermen and scientists of Ocearch since 2012 and captured history when Ocearch caught a 2,000-pound great white - the first to be tagged and released in the North Atlantic. It was named "Mary Lee" after Fischer's mother.

Founder Chris Fischer and co-captain Brett Mc... 05:23

"We started this project with you back in the beginning and we believe Mary Lee led us to the birthing site, which was one of our ultimate goals," Fischer said. "Where are they giving birth - that's where the sharks are much vulnerable. We think that's in the New York, New Jersey bite just south of Long Island, so the next expedition, they are trying to tag juveniles."

Fischer was also just in North Carolina, working with the North Carolina aquarium on an expedition - funded by SeaWorld -- to tag five tiger sharks.

While Fischer originally believed the giant great white sharks lurked in the Northeast during the summer, through his expeditions, he learned that they are all off the Southeast during this time.

"You have Mary Lee off Savannah, Lydia off Daytona and Katharine just north of the Bahamas off Palm Beach," Fischer said. "I think we just didn't really understand their movements - that's why it's so important we continue to tag white sharks off Massachusetts and understand the rhythm and the pattern... The puzzle where the sharks gather in Massachusetts is crucial to the public's safety in the entire eastern seaboard."

Thanks to technology, fans can also track the sharks themselves in real time on Ocearch's smartphone app and website. They can now also visit to win a trip to go on a shark tagging expedition with Fischer and his team in Nantucket.

"This kind of success you're seeing created to the sharks just exploded our understanding. You could understand why the science community haven't had access to these massive animals until the past few years," Fischer said of the technology.

But there is one thing Fischer and his team haven't quite mastered, yet -- tagging a mature male shark.

"We're still chasing the boy... That would be transformational," Fischer said. "The males are so tough because the females are so dominant in the ocean... They're bigger, they're more powerful and when you're in a place where they're mating, they just push the males off the bait."

Sunday kicked off Shark Week, a popular week of shark-based TV programming on Discovery.

"Anything that's letting people understand 'no ocean with no sharks, no planets with no shark' is good and Shark Week does that," Fischer said.

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