ARLO HEMPHILL | 11 June 2013
A massive 16+ foot great white shark was spotted off New Jersey yesterday. Rob Pompilio encountered the big shark 25 miles east of Atlantic City. When asked to describe the animal, Pompilio said “Big doesn’t even begin to do it justice… huge, smart, anything but a mindless killing machine, we had her circle my boat and pose for 10-15 minutes.”
Great whites (Carcharodon carcharias) are known to pass off our coast here in Maryland too. The large sharks are ambush specialists, preferring to feed on marine mammals. Younger whites are often found in inshore coastal waters in places with abundant seal populations. But large ones like this mama are most commonly spotted farther out at sea, and are known to feed on drifting whale carcasses.
Before anyone panics, white sharks are not commonly encountered in the inshore waters of Ocean City and Assateague. We don’t have the food resources that would attract them. While it is possible for a wandering shark to pass through our beach areas, attacks on humans are extremely rare. And when they do happen, it is almost always a case of mistaken identity. If you’re doing something that makes you look like a seal (like laying on a surfboard), you do up your risk a bit. However, as we have no summer population of seals, white sharks are not here looking for them.
Fear of these sharks has been exaggerated through movies such as Jaws. But this fear is misplaced. These are extraordinary, powerful predators that play a vital role in maintaining a healthy ocean ecosystem. They have little interest in humans. Rather, they are the ones at risk from us. Due to overfishing, fear-based culls and poaching for shark fin soup (an Asian luxury dish), white shark populations have declined worldwide and the species is considered vulnerable to extinction.
Thanks to Delaware-surf-fishing.com for sharing this story!