Friday, June 7, 2013

The Annual New Jersey Shark Blog

Well it is that time again. Rumors were flying earlier today that a 12-15 foot great white shark was spotted off the coast of New Jersey. Sure enough social media picked up on it and this image was seen nearly everywhere.

The U.S. Coast Guard issued a statement basically stating that this was a made up image and there have been no sharks sited off the coast of New Jersey. Still though, this image stirred up quite a bit of chatter in a very small amount of time. It appears that a good number of people still do not realize that sharks, including great whites do in fact visit New Jersey each and every year. I did a blog similar to this one last year, but it is that time of year so allow me to introduce, or reintroduce you all to some of the sharks that will be swimming in the waters off of New Jersey this coming summer.

The smooth dogfish is a small species of shark that is more known as an annoyance to fisherman than anything else. These little sharks do not have much in the way of teeth, in fact their teeth are similar to pebbles. They are usually found towards the bottom, but occasionally make their way towards the surface in search of small fish to eat.

The scalloped hammerhead is not all that common in New Jersey, but they do make their way up here when the water is warm. The scalloped hammerhead is an Endangered Species. They tend to be found in shallow waters looking for their next meal of rays, fish, or shellfish. Hammerheads are not known to be aggressive towards humans unless provoked.

Sandbar sharks are pretty common in New Jersey. These sharks tend to inhabit shallow waters, but can be found in deeper water as well. They tend to be quite skittish despite their large size. Last year a group of sandbar sharks was spotted off of Island Beach State Park chowing down on a school of bunker. Here is a video from that feeding frenzy. Note: Some other species of shark could have been involved in this frenzy.

Sand tiger sharks, or ragged tooth sharks, or grey nurse sharks are the most common species of large shark that we get here in New Jersey. These sharks are slow swimming and despite their fearsome appearance, they are not dangerous unless they are provoked first. The largest concentration of these sharks can usually be found off of Atlantic City, but they can be found north of there as well. Sand tigers are the only species of shark in the entire world that are able to stop swimming and not sink due to their ability to store air in their stomachs to keep themselves afloat.

Well here's a shark that needs no introduction. The great white shark does in fact visit New Jersey a couple times throughout the year as they migrate from Florida to New England. In New Jersey, great whites tend to stay offshore, but occasionally come within a mile from the beach. Despite their annual migrations, great whites are rarely seen, but they still do visit the garden state every year.

Surprise! The next shark is the largest fish in the Ocean, the Whale Shark! Yes, this gentle giant does come to New Jersey. In fact, New Jersey is at the northern tip of their range. So they are by no means a common shark in our waters, but from time to time they do make their way this far north. No need to worry about this massive animal as it only eats krill and very small fish. Boaters should always keep an eye out for this shark as it spends the vast majority of its time at the surface. Just a couple short years ago a boater spotted a whale shark off the coast of New Jersey as can be seen in this video.

New Jersey is also on the path of the fastest shark and possibly the fastest fish in the ocean. That would be the shortfin mako shark. These sharks generally do not come close to shore, but they are a big game fish for many fisherman. Divers will also occasionally come in contact with these sharks, but as with many other sharks, the shortfin mako tends to leave people alone as long as the person does not give them a reason to do otherwise.

So those are just some of the sharks that visit New Jersey during the summer. Some of the other species of shark that we see here in New Jersey include spinner sharks, tiger sharks, nurse sharks, bull sharks, basking sharks, and porbeagle sharks. Still though there are more. One would think that with all of these sharks visiting New Jersey that we would be a hot spot for shark attacks. That is simply not the case! According to the International Shark Attack File, since 1670, there have been a grand total of 18 shark attacks in the state of New Jersey. The last fatality in New Jersey was in 1960. Well there you have it. New Jersey is a hot spot for sharks, but contrary to the panic that will hit the T.V.s and radios as soon as a shark is sighted. These animals are always here, but they are not the vicious man eaters that will probably been portrayed on T.V.

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