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May 30, 2023

A 522-pound great white shark swam by Ocean City over Memorial Day weekend

The fish, a juvenile named Penny, is being tracked by researchers at the nonprofit OCEARCH. She could triple in size by the time she fully matures

Wildlife Sharks
Ocean City Shark OCEARCH OCEARCH/Facebook

Penny, a juvenile great white shark, was tracked off Ocean City, New Jersey on Memorial Day, according to OCEARCH. She measures 10 feet, 3 inches long and weighs 522 pounds.

A great white shark paid a visit to the coast of Ocean City on Memorial Day. It's the latest among a group tracked by shark researchers to appear outside New Jersey. 

Penny, a juvenile female equipped with a sensor tag, pinged off Ocean City shortly before 7 a.m. Monday, the nonprofit research organization OCEARCH said. The 10-foot, 3-inch long shark weighs 522 pounds, making her among the lighter sharks the scientists are tracking. She was tagged April 23 and first pinged off the coast of North Carolina around that time. More recently, she had traveled off the coast of Virginia before heading north near the Jersey Shore.

OCEARCH, one of the world's leading shark research organizations, uses a data-centric approach to follow shark movements during its expeditions. The nonprofit has tagged more than 400 animals since its first expedition in 2007 in an effort to broaden knowledge of shark behavior and biology.

Great white sharks migrate north during the summer to feed near Nova Scotia, typically to bulk up again after mating season in the southern Atlantic. 

Over the years, a few massive sharks have made appearances off the New Jersey coast.

The most famous 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. Great whites usually live to be about 60 years old.

Last May, Ocearch got a ping off the New Jersey coast from Ironbound, a 1,000-pound shark measuring more than 12 feet long. Ironbound was tagged in Nova Scotia, Canada in 2019 and last pinged off the coast of South Carolina on May 18. He's believed to be in his early 20s.

Other sharks that have pinged along New Jersey in recent years include 7-foot-long Martha, nearly 11-foot-long Andromache and 13-foot-long Breton, who appeared off the coast of Cape May in 2021.

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 tend to be more disturbed by crowds.

"Our Atlantic Ocean is returning to one of the (world's) great wild oceans due to successful management," said OCEARCH founder and expedition leader Chris Fischer.

Penny's appearance near Ocean City follows a suspected shark attack on a 15-year-old Pennsylvania girl at Stone Harbor on May 21. The girl was surfing off the 109th Street beach in Stone Harbor when she said she felt her foot in the jaws of a shark. She managed to fight her way out of its grip and suffered lacerations to her left foot and calf, which officials said were consistent with a shark bite.

The odds of a shark attack in the United States are 1 in 11.5 million, according to the International Shark Attack File's report on beach injuries and fatalities. In New Jersey, there have been just 15 confirmed unprovoked shark attacks since 1837, according to ISAF data.