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Shark Attacks In New Jersey: How to Stay Safe and Enjoy the Ocean


New Jersey is undoubtedly famous for its breathtaking beaches that attract millions of visitors every year. However, there’s another aspect of these beaches that’s not so appealing – the history of shark attacks. Dating back to more than a century ago, the first recorded shark attack in New Jersey was in 1916. 

Within twelve days, five more attacks were recorded, drawing attention to the dangers of venturing too deep into the ocean. Despite the availability of modern technology, with many sea crews using drones to monitor sea monsters, there were still 73 shark attacks globally in 2021, with almost two-thirds happening in the US. 

In this article, we’ll delve into the history of shark attacks in New Jersey and the current state of oceanic safety. Let’s explore together!

New Jersey Shore Shark Sightings

  Shark Attacks In New Jersey

For years, shark sightings have been a common occurrence in the waters off the Jersey Shore. Though the colder seas would suggest otherwise, sharks can survive in both fresh and saltwater. In fact, certain species can thrive in both. As our oceans continue to change and the climate shifts, reports of shark sightings off the Jersey Shore are becoming more and more common.

 Despite this, five secured ocean beaches remain open to visitors without a fee. These beaches are conveniently located in the Philly-favoured beach villages between Cape May and Atlantic City, making it easy for visitors to enjoy the beauty of the Jersey Shore while keeping an eye out for any finned creatures swimming nearby.

Recent Shark Sightings

Recent environmental changes have led to an increase in shark sightings, despite the fact that the shark population had been sharply declining over the past three decades. The growth of fish populations has provided sharks with more food sources, contributing to an upsurge in the shark population.

One of the factors influencing the rise in sightings is the warming of ocean temperatures. As the waters get warmer, sharks are moving farther north, which explains the increased reports of shark encounters in areas like Atlantic City, Toms River, and other locations further north.

Here are some of the most recent reported shark encounters:

  1. On July 12, 2021, a remarkable sighting occurred three miles off the shore of Cape May, where a massive 1,400-pound great white shark, measuring 13 feet in length, was spotted. The shark was safely returned to the water and was given the name Breton, in honour of the area where it was found.
  2. In late April 2022, a 1,000-pound white shark was sighted off the New Jersey coast, adding to the increasing number of shark encounters in the region.
  3. On July 2, a shark research organisation confirmed that an 883-pound shark named Freya passed just a few kilometres from Toms River, New Jersey, further highlighting the presence of sharks in the area.

It’s crucial to be aware of these changes in the marine environment and the growing shark population to ensure proper management and understanding of their behaviour and potential interactions with humans.

Shark Species Found In New Jersey Waters

The New Jersey coastal salt marsh, spanning 200,000 acres, provides a habitat for eight different shark species.

#1 Sand Tiger Shark

The sand tiger shark is a species found in temperate and subtropical waters worldwide. It is commonly found in the “surf zone,” along with sandbar sharks and other animals. Recently, a man caught a seven-foot giant sand tiger shark off the coast of New Jersey and later released it, expressing satisfaction with the healthy release.

#2 Sandbar Shark

Sandbar sharks are abundant off the coast of New Jersey and are often observed swimming near sandbars, from which they get their name. They also inhabit shallow waters in bays, harbors, and river mouths, making the bays of Delaware and Barnegat their nurseries.

#3 Smooth Dogfish Shark

The smooth dogfish shark is a small species reaching lengths of up to three feet. It has distinctive oval, closely-spaced eyes, and a slender gray body with a white underside. They can be found in separate populations across the western Atlantic Ocean, migrating close to shore and farther north during the summer, and offshore and farther south in the winter.

#4 Blacktip Shark

The blacktip shark is a relatively new species to the waters of New Jersey, possibly due to climate change affecting ocean temperatures. They are similar in appearance and behavior to spinner sharks, often mistaken for one another, and known for their acrobatic feeding behavior.

#5 Mako Shark

The highly migratory mako shark is typically found in the open ocean and can reach lengths of up to 12 feet, with the largest individuals exceeding this size. Occasionally, endangered mako sharks can be spotted off the coast of New Jersey, with some notable catches recorded in the past.

#6 Thresher Shark

Thresher sharks are common in the temperate waters around the world, including off the coast of New Jersey. They have a distinct sickle-shaped tail fin that can be almost half the length of their body, making them easily recognizable.

#7 Blue Shark

The blue shark is prevalent in New Jersey’s waters and is considered one of the most attractive shark species globally. They can reach lengths of up to 12 feet for females and are known for their large pectoral fins and slender bodies.

#8 Chain Catshark

The harmless chain catshark, also known as the chain dogfish, is a small species reaching a maximum length of around 18 inches. They are visually striking with their chained coloring and are commonly found in the Gulf of Mexico along the Atlantic coast, feeding on squid and small fish.

The diverse range of shark species in these waters emphasizes the importance of understanding and conserving their habitats to ensure their survival and maintain the ecological balance of the marine ecosystem.

Shark Attacks In New Jersey History

Sharks have long been feared for their ferocious attacks on humans, but it turns out that not all of these attacks are unprovoked. In fact, there are two distinct types of shark attacks: those that are unprovoked and those that are provoked by human interference. 

The former is the more common scenario, whereby a shark may attack a person even though they have not done anything to provoke it. Fortunately, in New Jersey, there have been very few shark attacks reported thus far, and most of these have resulted in minor injuries. Nonetheless, it’s always important to exercise caution when swimming in the ocean, especially in areas where these predators are known to dwell.

 #1 Shark Attack In New Jersey (1842)

The earliest recorded shark attack in New Jersey occurred in 1842. A group of young boys who were clam-digging on the bay’s flats encountered a large shark that had become stranded in the shallow waters during low tide. As one of the boys attempted to fend off the shark with an oar, the shark retaliated by lunging at him, resulting in a severe amputation of his limb. The other boys acted swiftly and managed to kill the shark to save their friend.

#2 Shark Attacks In New Jersey (1916)

The year 1916 marked a significant and tragic event as the first officially recorded shark attack in the United States took place in New Jersey. During this fateful year, five individuals fell victim to shark attacks, with only one survivor. The first fatality occurred when a 25-year-old man was swimming off a New Jersey beach and was viciously attacked by a shark, resulting in a severe leg injury that proved fatal due to excessive bleeding.

In the days following, another life was claimed by a shark in Spring Lake on Beach Haven, while the subsequent attacks happened at an interior creek located more than a kilometer away from the nearest bay. A teenager suffered injuries when a shark bit his leg, and two days later, two fishermen near Matawan Creek killed a shark in the water, presumably the actual predator responsible for the attacks, as no further killings occurred after that incident. These series of attacks have since made people more cautious about swimming in New Jersey beaches.

New Jersey Locations With Most Shark Attacks

New Jersey is fortunate to have experienced fewer shark attacks compared to Florida. However, shark encounters still happen occasionally, and here are the locations in New Jersey where shark attacks have been reported:

#1 Atlantic City

Atlantic City has had a total of five documented shark attacks. Among these incidents, only one was provoked, and it took place on July 6, 1906. The most recent attack in this area occurred on August 26, 1965, at Steel Pier in Atlantic City. There have also been recent sightings of a 10-foot-long white shark off the coast of Atlantic City, as reported by the New York Post.

#2 Ocean City, Cape May County

Ocean City, located in Cape May County, has seen five shark attacks since 1884. Three of these incidents involved provocation, but fortunately, none of the attacks resulted in fatalities.

#3 Matawan Creek

Matawan Creek has witnessed three shark attacks, all on the same day: July 12, 1916. The shark attacked three victims while they were swimming. The victims were three males, aged 10, 12, and 24. The 12-year-old boy survived the attack but had to undergo surgery to amputate his left leg. Sadly, the other two victims did not survive the attack.

#4 Sea Bright, Monmouth County

Sea Bright, located in Monmouth County, has also experienced five reported shark attacks, tying with Atlantic City for the highest number of incidents. The first attack occurred on September 21, 1917, but it was non-lethal. Subsequently, four more attacks have occurred, with the most recent one taking place on August 7, 2022.

While New Jersey may have fewer shark attacks compared to other areas, it’s essential to stay vigilant and take necessary precautions when swimming in coastal waters. Shark encounters can still occur, and it’s essential to be aware of the potential risks and follow safety guidelines.

Shark Attacks in North Carolina

Which County in New Jersey Has Seen the Most Shark Attacks?

The Jersey Shore may be known for its picturesque beaches, delicious food, and lively boardwalks, but it’s also home to some amazing wildlife, including the sand tiger shark. These majestic creatures may look ferocious, but they’re actually pretty docile. Recently, a lucky beachgoer in Seaside got the chance to see one up close and personal. 

In fact, this August 2022 sighting was just one more reason to be excited about exploring the coastal waters of New Jersey. And while it’s true that there have been a few shark bite incidents in the area recently, that shouldn’t stop anyone from hopping in the water and experiencing the beauty that lies within it.

What Are The Chances Of Shark Attacks In New Jersey?

The truth is that while shark attacks do happen, they are incredibly unlikely. Every year, thousands of individuals enter the waters of New Jersey without any problems and enjoy a day in the sun and surf. The majority of documented shark events in the state are often brought on by human activities that directly or indirectly provoked natural responses from different shark species. 

How To Prevent Shark Attacks?

To minimise the risk of shark bites while swimming in inland, bay, or ocean waters, follow these precautions:

  1. Swim at Safe Times: Refrain from swimming alone during times when apex predators are actively feeding, such as early morning and just before dusk. Stay close to the coast to ensure proximity to emergency help and consider swimming in groups, as sharks are less likely to approach when they see multiple individuals together.
  2. Ditch Disposable Plastic: Avoid bringing disposable plastic items like plates or glasses into the water. The sound of bones crunching during feeding is similar to that of squeezed plastic, which might attract sharks. Opt for environmentally friendly alternatives instead.
  3. Choose Lifeguarded Beaches: Stick to beaches with lifeguards on duty. These professionals have developed shark incident protocols, rescue tactics, and risk reduction policies, making swimming safer under their watchful eye.
  4. Mind Menstruation and Open Wounds: A shark’s exceptional sense of smell can detect the blood of wounded prey from afar. Avoid swimming in the sea when you have cuts, wounds, or are menstruating, as these factors may attract sharks.
  5. Be Cautious with Actions and Attire: Minimize excessive splashing while in the water, especially in murky areas, as it can draw a shark’s attention. Avoid wearing brightly colored clothes or jewelry that may resemble fish scales and be mistaken for prey.
  6. Skip Jewelry in the Water: Refrain from wearing reflective jewelry like rings, necklaces, or gold chains while swimming, as they can appear like fish scales to sharks and lead to mistaken identity “hit-and-run incidents.”
  7. Stay Away from Fishing Zones: Be cautious near areas where fishing activities are happening, as sharks, sea birds, and anglers all pursue the same food sources. Also, avoid waterways with wastewater disposal, which may attract bait fish and consequently sharks.

By following these precautions, you can reduce the likelihood of shark encounters and enjoy a safer swimming experience in various aquatic environments.


When was last shark attack in NJ?

If you live in New Jersey, you may be wondering when the last shark attack occurred. While the state has seen its fair share of shark sightings over the years, the last recorded attack took place in 2019 when a swimmer was bitten on the arm by a sandbar shark. 

Who was the girl attacked by shark in New Jersey?

On a summer day in New Jersey, a young girl was enjoying a swim in the ocean when a great white shark attacked her. The incident shook the beach community and made headlines across the country. As people wondered who the girl was and how she was doing, information slowly began to emerge. While her identity has not been revealed to the public, it has been reported that she suffered serious injuries and had to undergo multiple surgeries. 

What state has the most reported shark attacks?

According to recent data, Florida has consistently remained the top state for shark attacks. The warm weather, large coastline, and popularity of beach tourism are all factors that contribute to the high number of shark incidents in the state. 

Final Words

Sharks menacingly lurking in the water may be a fear for many who love the ocean. Unfortunately, due to an increase in the population of fish, sharks have become more abundant. With the oceans heating up, caused by the damaging effects of global warming, sharks have become even more prevalent, especially farther North. In 2016, two shark attacks occurred on the Long Beach Island coast. 

Surfers were bitten in both incidents. Fortunately, the victim in the Seaside Heights assault did not receive significant injuries in 2017. While sharks may seem like a fierce predator, there are several techniques to safeguard oneself from a shark attack. By following safety protocols, such as avoiding swimming in shark-infested areas and employing a shark deterrent, it is possible to enjoy the ocean without fear.


Author Profile

A motivated philosophy graduate and student of wildlife conservation with a deep interest in human-wildlife relationships, including wildlife communication, environmental education, and conservation anthropology. Offers strong interpersonal, research, writing, and creativity skills.

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A motivated philosophy graduate and student of wildlife conservation with a deep interest in human-wildlife relationships, including wildlife communication, environmental education, and conservation anthropology. Offers strong interpersonal, research, writing, and creativity skills.


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