Shark Sightings in New Jersey

And the shark fest continues…

The past few days have seen a string of shark sightings in the region, including two shark-infested videos of sightings in Island Beach Park – Ocean County, New Jersey. We don’t know about you, but watching them raises ALL sorts of questions. We decided to go straight to the source and get the inside scoop from our very own in-house shark expert – Marc Kind, Adventure Aquarium’s Husbandry Director.

In the first video, Cinematographer Mike Ragone spotted what appears to be a Hammerhead shark in the waves, and captured this incredible footage:

Marc: The shark seen in this video is most likely a Scalloped Hammerhead, although it’s difficult to be sure without a clear view of the shark’s cephalophoil (hammer-shaped head). What we are most likely seeing in this video is this hammerhead feeding. It appears to be using the surf to help seek out prey items, such as small fish, skates and rays. It is unusual to have a hammerhead shark sighting so close to the NJ shoreline, as these animals don’t typically swim around in the surf as part of their natural habits. Typically, they stay further off shore in deeper waters. However, due to the warmer water temperatures we’ve been experiencing this summer, there have more shark sightings than we typically see this time of year.

And of course – there’s the video captured by Ocean Videographer Tom Lynch, of what appears to be a shark “feeding frenzy” some 50 yards from shore. In the clip, the sharks appear to be almost jumping out of the water! Check it out:

Marc: The sharks are likely Sandbars, feeding on Menhaden – a fish commonly used as fish oil, crab bait – very commercially important fish in the area. I’ve never personally seen this kind of behavior from sharks, much less from Sandbars, which are more of a bottom dwelling shark. Because of that, it’s even more interesting to see them breaching the surface like they did in the video. When sharks feed, they move with their prey items and have a singular focus on feeding. So if the Menhaden were essentially “jumping” out of the water like that, the sharks would be rushing to the surface to catch them. Really cool to watch!

It is important to note that while there may be an increase in incidents of some of these more tropical sharks being sighted closer to the our shoreline, the reality is that these animals are typically found off the shores of NJ this time of year – just usually further out in deeper waters, where beachgoers don’t see them.

And while there may be an increase in shark sightings in our region this summer, the only way to truly understand if there is an increase in sharks in our region would be to study shark populations long-term.

As Marc reminds us – sharks are to be revered, not feared. But as a precaution, anytime ANY shark is seen feeding near the shoreline, swimmers should avoid entering the water to swim. Other clues that you may want to avoid the water include:

  •   If there has been a recent shark sighting
  •   If it is dusk or dawn
  •   If people are fishing nearby
  •   If birds appear to be diving/fishing off shore (birds and sharks feed on same thing…fish!)

What are YOUR thoughts?

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