07/29/2015 02:42 EDT | Updated 07/29/2016 05:59 EDT

Catch a shark during the food fishery? Be ready to release it

Photos and videos are all over social media of sharks being caught during this year's recreational fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador, and they're being used as a helpful tool for researchers.

Half-eaten cod have been hauled up out of the water and sharks — usually porbeagles, a species of mackerel shark — reach the surface and give people on the water an up-close look.

Fishermen may be seeing more sharks, but Fisheries and Oceans biologist Mark Simpson said it doesn't necessarily mean the shark population is increasing.

"I think part of the message is that the number of people out on the water seeing it," Simpson said. "It's not a function of increased shark population but it could be a function of more people on the water."

"However, we don't have a dedicated shark survey so it's unknown what the population is really doing."

Notifying DFO of shark sightings helps researchers get a greater idea of the type of shark in the water.

Simpson warns though that if you do catch a shark you have to release it — so get your bolt cutters ready.

Simpson said porbeagle sharks like to be in water between 2 C and 10 C, and will follow their food — cod.

"You treat it with respect, you don't know how its going to act but they're generally not aggressive towards people," he said.

"They're interested in the food, they're interested in the cod, [and] often times they use their nose to prod at things like boats to see what it is and see how it reacts."

Unless you have a licence, it's against the law to retain any sharks that are caught. 

Simpson said if you do you need to release the shark in a quick, humane fashion.