Here’s a jaw-dropping shark sighting: a great white more than 12 feet long and weighing almost 1,000 pounds has been spotted swimming along the East Coast.
His name is Ironbound, after West Ironbound Island near Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, where the adult male was first encountered in October 2019 and tagged with a satellite tracking device by OCEARCH, which is a global nonprofit that researches marine animals. Since then, he has traveled an estimated 13,000 miles, the organization told CNN, going back and forth from the Florida Keys to Nova Scotia several times.
But Ironbound’s satellite tag recently pinged that he was near the Jersey Shore, which is notable because this was near the 1916 shark attacks that inspired the book and blockbuster movie “Jaws.” He cruised off the coast of New Jersey at around 10:30 p.m. ET on April 28, and later popped up in the Atlantic Ocean due east of Philadelphia.
The latest ping, coming Monday, May 9 at 6:12 p.m. ET, pegged him just off North Carolina’s Pamlico Sound. He’s following the migration path that great whites in the Atlantic Ocean make each year; summering in the rich feeding grounds found in the northern waters off of Canada, before swimming south again for the winter, sometimes traveling as far as the eastern Gulf of Mexico.
Or they can track other underwater predators that OCEARCH has tagged here, including Rocket, a 1,088-pound tiger shark currently swimming the Pacific between Australia and New Zealand.
OCEARCH’s chief scientist told CNN that Ironbound is probably around 20 years old. And while he is an impressive specimen, measuring 12 feet, 4 inches long and weighing an estimated 998 pounds, OCEARCH has tagged great whites as long as 17.5 feet and weighing as much as 4,000 pounds.
Indeed great whites, which are the world’s largest predatory fish, see males reaching 11 to 13 feet long on average, and females growing 15 to 16 feet long on average, with adult sharks weighing between 4,000 and 7,000 pounds. But the largest great whites can hit 20 feet long, with some unconfirmed reports of great whites growing 23 feet long.
But Ironbound and his fellow sharks shouldn’t make folks afraid to ever go in the water again, as the infamous”Jaws” tagline teased. While shark attacks often spark a media feeding frenzy, in fact, there were only 73 confirmed unprovoked shark bites on people around the world in 2021, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History’s International Shark Attack File, and 39 provoked bites, which is in line with the five-year average of 72 incidents annually between 2016 and 2020. And there were 11 shark-related fatalities around the entire world last year.
And while the U.S. leads the world in unprovoked shark bites with 47 confirmed cases in 2021 (one of whom died), an estimated 31,720 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes across the country from January through September 2021. The death toll from COVID-19 is poised to reach 1 million Americans this week. So shark attacks are not a major risk factor heading into Memorial Day weekend, by comparison.
Shark populations have also plummeted over the past four decades. In fact, they have been marked as a “vulnerable” species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as overfishing has led to a population decline.