Three New Jersey fishermen got the surprise of their life on Sunday when their small boat drew the attention of a great white shark. In the terrifying encounter that was captured on video on one of the men’s phones, the shark circled the boat for roughly for 10 minutes before it eventually gave up and swam away.
According to an NBC affiliate in Philadelphia, the unexpected meeting took place about 30 miles southeast of Atlantic City, N.J. Ron Pompilio and Mike Long told the news outlet that they had departed from Little Egg Harbor Township earlier that day with another friend. The two men added that the shark didn’t seem particularly aggressive but was merely sniffing around.
“It came up, just grabbed the boat, saw it wasn’t edible, went back down,” Pompilio said. “Unspeakable. Like nothing I’ve ever seen before."
“The teeth were huge,” Long added. Later, after the shark had departed, Long and Pompilio noticed large white scratches along the 28-foot-boat where the great white had tried to bite it.
According to NPR, great white sightings on the East Coast have increased steadily over the past few years. Beachgoers have spotted great whites in traditionally shark-free territory such as Cape Cod, Mass., and Rockaway Beach, N.Y.
Greg Skomal, a biologist at Marine Fisheries in New Bedford, Mass., described the growing number of great White sightings as a combination of an increased number of beachgoers as well as shifting populations of gray seals. “It's hard for us to really tell if there's more sharks or just simply more effort,” Skomal said. “Certainly, a lot of the sightings along the East Coast of the United States have to do with more people utilizing the shoreline.”
But Skomal added that growing numbers of great whites, particularly in areas like the coast of Chatham, Mass., might also coincide with burgeoning numbers of gray seals. “You know, we could be going back to what existed several hundred years ago, with a robust seal population being preyed upon by a robust white shark population,” Skomal said.
However, Skomal added that the last case of someone dying as a result of a shark attack in New England was in the 1930s. “So that gives you a sense of what the probability is,” he said. "That said, I think it's important to realize when you place people in close proximity to the prey of sharks -- namely, gray seals -- you could potentially increase the risk modestly.”