Another potentially dangerour species the lifeguard must be aware of is The Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias). Great Whites gained fame as a dangerous creature with the release of Jaws. For many years it was the primary suspect in the shark attacks on the New Jersey Shore in 1916. One thing is for sure, the Great White has been responsible for attacks on humans on the East Coast. Great whites are found off the North Atlantic Coast and have been responsible for attacks as far north as Maine. They are commonly found in the 9-20’ range, but historical accounts place them even larger than 20’. The 10’ juvenile shark is most likely involved in incidents on the East Coast.
They have several distinguishing factors that aid in identification. They are counter shaded with gray to almost black tops and white under bellies. They have serrated triangular teeth. Their tail fin is equal in size with both the upper and lower lobes being about the same size. They have stout bodies and a keel that runs along the rear section of the tail.
Juvenile Great Whites feed on fish while adults favor marine mammals. With increasing water quality on the East Coast of North America, there has been a rise in marine mammal populations. With this rise has come an increase in the number of Great Whites.
Great Whites are ambush feeders. They typically attack their pray from beneath. Rushing to the surface they often give a powerful bite that cripples the prey. The shark then circles as the stunned marine mammal bleeds out. Great White Sharks can be associated with hit-and-run and sneak attacks. They can attack in deep waters or in the surf.
The best management practices for avoiding Great White attacks is through observation. Land, sea, and air observing can detect many great whites. From above they give a characteristic profile that, with training, is easy to recognize. In addition, many East Coast Great Whites have been tagged with GPS tags that broadcast their location. Thousands of people follow the exploits of these named sharks as they travel up and down the coast. Knowing where they are can help lifeguards and shark spotters be extra vigilant in these areas.
If great whites have been spotted remove bathers from the water and keep them out until there have been no sightings for several hours.
The Great White Juveniles in the photo below were all caught in sight of Sandy Hook in one day.