By DENISE HERSCHEL
It is not quite summer yet but the great white shark is already making its presence known at the Jersey Shore. In fact, it is not just one shark but three who have been spotted recently in the waters along the coast, according to OCEARCH Shark Tracker, a data-centric organization built to help scientists collect previously unattainable data in the ocean.
OCEARCH experts are currently tracking the migration of white sharks as they head north for the summer as many white sharks had spent time in the area of the Outer Banks, North Carolina before they go north.
“Before they go, we seek to study the sharks condition after their winter south, and in particular, the reproductive state of the adult sharks,” OCEARCH Chief Scientist Dr. Bob Hueter said.
“Hali, a 700-pound, 10 foot shark was detected recently off the coast of Long Beach Island. Named for the people of Halifax, Nova Scotia where she was tagged, she was spotted just 15 to 200 miles off the coast.
Several weeks ago, Jekyll, an eight-foot shark was pinged off the coast north of Atlantic City. Jekyll is a juvenile white shark weighing 395 pounds and was first tagged by OCEARCH this past December. At the beginning of May, Simon, a nine-foot juvenile was seen off the coast near Island Beach State Park. The next day he pinged near Long Branch before swimming toward New York.
S o what do local beachgoers think about the appearance of the great white sharks off the Jersey shoreline? According to those we asked, their reactions were mixed about these huge creatures swimming nearby.
Neptune resident Jason Twomey said, “I think it is amazing. I hope this means that the environment is healthy enough to support these big animals and that means we can learn more about them.”
Another Neptune resident, Sarah Marasuilo, was not aware of the great white sharks swimming off the coast recently but said that she had a previous encounter with a baby hammerhead shark in Belmar some years ago.
“It was about seven years ago. I was at the Belmar beach and the shark was in the water with people recording it and trying to catch it,” she said. “Sharks won’t stop me from going to the beach but I will probably be going into a pool rather than into the ocean to swim.”
Asbury Park resident Sammy Olson said that she is “not bothered” by the talk of great white sharks near the Shore.
“I have been swimming at the beaches in Asbury Park for years and I have not yet encountered a shark. The way I see it is that I probably have a greater chance of getting hit by lighting than getting bit by a shark. But I hope I am not jinxing myself,” she laughed.
OCEARCH is dedicated to studying and researching marine life with a particular focus on large sharks such as great whites, tiger sharks and hammerheads. The organization was founded by Chris Fischer, a former professional angler, in 2007. They study marine life with part of their tools taking blood samples, tagging them with satellite tags and fitting them with acoustic transmitters to track their movement. When a shark comes close to the surface their transportation “pings” and the shark’s location is transmitted.