When people think of sharks in the waters off the coast of New Jersey, generally they think of nurse sharks, mako sharks, sand sharks and others. But, the state is actually a breeding ground for great white sharks.

Great White Shark Tagging off East Coast (Facebook.com via Ocearch)
Great White Shark Tagging off East Coast (Facebook.com via Ocearch)

"Not only are great white sharks out there, but baby great whites are born in the back bay waters in the early spring in New Jersey and then they move out to open sea," said Bob Schoelkopf, founding director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center.

"It's not unheard of to see great whites along the coast. We've had seals attacked by them. We've had sea turtles that have literally had their shells bitten right through from great whites. They are out there and they are a protected species. They are usually in deeper water because they like to feed on larger prey like seals and big fish."

That doesn't mean that they never come close to the shoreline.

Recently, two fisherman off the coast were shocked when they saw a great white shark circling their boat, so they took video. In the video, the shark can be seen swimming around the boat and popping its head out of the water on occasion.

"We get reports every year or so about great white sightings. Often, people think they are looking at dolphins when they see a fin come up out of the water when, in fact, they are looking at great whites," said Schoelkopf.

NJ a Perfect Breeding Ground for Sharks

What makes New Jersey a perfect breeding ground for great white sharks?

"There is plenty of food for them. The seal population is expanding very rapidly along the east coast," said Schoelkopf. "The more seals you have, the more predators come to feed on them."

Shark attacks are pretty rare in New Jersey.

"Activity like that is uncommon here because there is plenty of food for the sharks to feed on. Any attacks that may have occurred generally happened when the shark was busy feeding and people got in the way," said Schoelkopf. "It's not unusual for sharks to come in along the coast. People would probably be surprised if they put a mask on and looked around and saw how many sharks actually swim by them."

"There's no reason to panic. As long as people have been inhabiting the coast of New Jersey, the sharks have been there. In fact, they've been there even longer."

More From New Jersey 101.5 FM