By Lauren Wanko
When the movie Jaws was released, it left some people wondering. And the recent shark attacks in North Carolina sparked the same question. What are the chances of getting attacked by a shark?
“Well there’s a better chance of winning the lottery then getting bitten by a shark off the New Jersey coast,” said Marie Levine, Executive Director of the Shark Research Institute.
When asked if she was scared of shark attacks, Larissa Brown said “Of course. They’re scary!”
Levine says there’s always a very, very remote chance of a shark attack.
“Every time we’re in the ocean, we are swimming with sharks, but we’re not on their menu. The sharks off our coasts are primarily fish eaters. White sharks do pass through. They do feed on marine mammals but they’re all heading off to feeding grounds in Massachusetts,” she said.
Lately a certain great white — Mary Lee — has become a star on social media. Researchers have been tracking her along the East Coast since 2012. She’s cruised past the Jersey Shore. Levine’s team’s been researching sharks as well and promoting their conservation.
“Sharks are really critical to the ocean’s ecosystem,” Levine said.
Combating negative misperceptions about sharks is something the Institute’s also taken on.
“People think that every time they see a shark the shark’s going to bite them and the sharks don’t. We are not the prey of sharks,” Levine said.
The International Shark Attack File, a global database, indicates there have been 15 unprovoked shark attacks in New Jersey from 1837 to 2014 — five fatal. The last fatality was in 1926.
“I don’t mess with sharks at all,” said one beachgoer.
Levine recommends a wide distance between fishing piers and swimming and surfing beaches because sharks can be attracted to the chum around the pier.
“People off New Jersey should be aware of channels in the water because a fish, a shark that’s maybe swimming in a channel and can’t swim backwards, and if suddenly confronted by a human, it’s going to get frightened. There is nothing mysterious about sharks. They are just like any other animal. They can become angry and frightened, they just want to get on with their lives,” Levine said.
And this summer many humans want to go the beach. Levine’s message? Don’t avoid the water just because sharks are in the ocean.