Last week, local fisherman Bobby Jahrnes and his fishing buddies reeled in a Great White shark, just a few miles off the coast of Rockaway Beach. The catch-and-release capped off a week highlighted by a string of Great White shark sightings that occurred at or near New York beaches.
Metro wanted to find out more about the carnivorous predators. So, we contacted Demian Chapman, assistant science director for the Institute of Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University.
Metro: Is it normal to see Great Whites in the New York City area this time of year?
Chapman: It is very normal to see them, as it’s always been thought that New York and New Jersey are where white sharks give birth. I think the sightings have simply garnered more attention because they have coincided with recent reports suggesting that white sharks are in the early stages of recovery in the Northwest Atlantic after having declined in the 1980’s.
Metro: What caused the decline?
Chapman: Most likely commercial and recreational fishing pressure.
Metro: Do you expect that we will see more Great Whites in the area in the future?
Chapman: A recent scientific paper suggested that white shark sightings are increasing about two decades after the federal government protected them. But, they’ll never be truly abundant because they are at the very top of the marine food web. The ecosystem can only support a relatively small population.
Metro: Should people be afraid to swim in the waters now?
Chapman: Even when white sharks were in better shape in New York and New Jersey there were very few shark bites recorded. It’s unlikely that will change as white sharks recover. Shark bite frequency is usually a function of how many people are in the water.