May 09, 2022
With Memorial Day Weekend fast approaching for beachgoers, the Jersey Shore recently got an advance visit from a gigantic great white shark migrating up the Atlantic coast.
Ironbound, one of the dozens of sharks tracked by the non-profit research organization OCEARCH, registered a ping on April 28 off the coast of New Jersey. Measuring 12 feet 4 inches and weighing about 998 pounds, the tagged shark is named after the West Ironbound Island in Nova Scotia.
OCEARCH is among the world's leading shark research outfits that uses a data-centric approach to tag and track shark movements during its expeditions. OCEARCH has nearly 200 scientists and has tagged more than 400 animals since its first expedition in 2007. The organization aims to expand our knowledge of shark behavior and biology to promote better maritime policies.
Bob Hueter, chief scientist at OCEARCH, told CNN that Ironbound has traveled approximaley 13,000 miles since he was first tagged in Canadian waters in 2019.
"He's gone back and forth from where we found him in Nova Scotia and the Florida Keys several times," Hueter said.
Great white sharks annually migrate north during the summer to feed near Nova Scotia, typically to bulk up again after mating season in the southern Atlantic.
Ironbound is far from the largest shark tracked by OCEARCH over the years.
The most famous among them was Mary Lee, a mature female shark who measured 16 feet long and a whopping 3,456 pounds. Estimated to be about 50 years old, Mary Lee's size earned her the title "Matriarch of the Sea," but OCEARCH lost track of her around 2018, likely because the battery on her tracker died. She registered a number of pings off the coast of New Jersey in the middle part of the last decade.
Hueter estimated that Ironbound is about 20 years old. Great white sharks usually live to be about 60 years old.
Last summer, OCEARCH tracked another great white shark off the coast of Cape May. At the time, Breton measured 13 feet long and weighed 1,437 pounds. He, too, was expected to be heading north to Cape Cod or Nova Scotia.
Breton has officially started his move North! This 13ft, 1,437lb male white shark is currently off of Cape May,...Posted by OCEARCH on Monday, July 12, 2021
Other sharks spotted along the coast of the Jersey Shore in recent years include 7-foot-long Martha and nearly 11-foot-long Andromache.
Shark populations have been recovering on the East Coast in recent years after four decades of decline, mostly caused by overfishing. Bites among humans are rare and most species show little interest in attacking people without provocation, though some are more aggressive than others and they tend to be more disturbed by crowds.
“They generally just ignore people," Gavin Naylor, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research, told BBC in 2019. "I think if people knew how frequently they were in water with sharks, they would probably be surprised.”