Now that the summer season has arrived, Jersey residents are heading down the shore and many are thinking about taking a dip in the ocean.

Some, however, never actually go into the water because in the back of their minds they hear the theme song from the movie "Jaws" playing over and over and over.

According to Marie Levine, the executive director of Shark Research Institute in Princeton, getting attacked by a shark off the Jersey coast would be extremely rare.

“There are maybe 100 encounters, unanticipated interactions, with sharks worldwide in a year. There may be 10 true attacks,” she said.

According to, the last confirmed shark attack off the Jersey coast where someone was injured was August of 1965, when a 15-year-old boy in the water in Atlantic City had his thigh bitten by a shark.

The last confirmed fatal shark attack off the Jersey coast was 101 years ago.

“That’s about the last thing I’d worry about. I’d worry much more about riptides, rip currents — they’re far, far more dangerous than sharks,” said Levine.

She said it’s rare for sharks to be in the waters off the Jersey coast but there may occasionally be bull sharks, as well as white sharks, makos and sand tiger sharks.

“Bull sharks and tiger sharks are what we call omnivorous: they’ll eat just about anything, and they’ll do test bites sometimes when they’re not sure what something is,” she said.

“Most sharks are very cautious, they don’t want to get hurt, they don’t want to go after something that can turn around and hurt or kill them. That said, however, bull sharks, tiger sharks sometimes bite first and think about it afterwards.”

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Why are people so afraid of sharks?

“I think it’s kind of a primal fear of something we don’t know, of a large predator, something maybe that is stronger than we are,” said Levine. “People aren’t that afraid of jelly fish, but they actually can cause severe stings and in some cases death. But people aren’t worried about them.”

She said in the very unlikely event you are in the water and a shark is lurking, make sure you try to face it head-on.

“Most sharks are what we call ambush predators, they come from behind. So if you face the animal it will normally back away and if it doesn’t, you give it a good smack,” she said. “You smack it in the nose, that’s where it’s electrical receptors are and it’s going to move off pretty fast.”

Levine added, “They’re extremely curious animals, all animals even snails learn by exploring their environment and sharks are no different.”

You can contact reporter David Matthau at

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