Alert, beachgoers! Right now, Social-distancing violators might be the least of your problems.
At least three great white sharks have been identified lurking in local waters, with another monster moving our way. There is also a possibility of a fifth maneater — the venerable Mary Lee, of 16 feet and 3,456 pounds near the Jersey shore.
According to the Ocearch online shark tracker, the most recent apex predators to take up residence in New York/New Jersey waters are Caroline (12 feet 9 inches long, 1,348 pounds), who pinged between Seaside Heights and Barnegat Light, NJ, on July 1; and Caper (8 feet, 348 pounds) and Cabot (9 feet, 533 pounds), whose electronic tags signaled on June 8 and 4, respectively, off the Hamptons.
There is also another one named Vimy, who is new to the neighborhood with1,164-pound behemoth weight and nearly 13 feet long, who was tracked on July 10 in the deep ocean off Delaware and southern New Jersey. It’s possible he’s just doing a drive-by as he heads for the cool waters off Canada.
In 2017 Mary Lee’s satellite tracker stopped working when its five-year battery gave out, but scientists believe the powerful beast is alive and well.
This news of the great whites within biting distance of our shores comes after a 7-foot shark was seen near the Rockaway Beach on July 1. But that was only the beginning, a harmless species that poses a puppy dog’s threat to the bathing public.
Great whites, on the other hand, can have blade-like teeth that can each grow up to 6 inches long. They fear no one, as Capt. Quint discovered while becoming shark bait in the movie “Jaws.”
Are we in for the same kind of summer as Amity Island?
Probably not, the experts say.
“The drive to the beach is much riskier than swimming with sharks in the water,” said Paul Sieswerda, head of Gotham Whale, a NYC research and advocacy organization.
According to him the appearance of great whites is actually a good sign of healthy local waters. He explained that since 2010, cleaner water has led to an abundance of baitfish and even seals — shark snacks that attract the predators. He is expecting even more great whites in the coming years if seals take up year-round residence here like they have in Cape Cod.
Chris Fischer, the founder of the Ocearch shark tracker, also expects “a steady slow increase in shark numbers.”
He said the five great whites are “no more than normal,” and that they are following typical migration patterns.
He also added that the growing population of great whites here is “a thing to celebrate.” They prey on the weak, which keeps marine stocks strong and ensures that “everyone will see an ocean full of fish for generations, and our great-grandkids will be able to enjoy fish sandwiches and lobster rolls deep into the future.”
But make sure you don’t become fish food yourself: “Be smart. Don’t swim out into the ocean if you see a bunch of seals, baitfish crashing, and birds diving.”