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Great White Spotting in New York Stirs Controversy

A surfer captured an image of a great white shark swimming underneath him while sitting in the lineup off Rockaway Beach last October – or so a post on Reddit claims. We don’t know the identity of the individual who captured it, yet the poster, Bem135 uploaded the image under the heading “Found on friends Go Pro Camera after surfing in Rockaway Beach.”

From the comments it seems the surfer didn’t know the shark was near until he went home and checked the footage.

Perusing through the comments further it’s clear others question the authenticity of its location and even if it was photoshopped. The image clearly shows a large great white shark passing beneath the surface, just a few feet from the surfer, shadowed in the eery green waters.

Rockaway is the closest ocean-exposed beach to Manhattan and is accessible via the MTA subway’s A Train. It was hit hard during hurricane Sandy, as was chronicled in a recent documentary about surfers recovering from the storm.

 

 

According to the Daily Mail, who first reported the image, a noted shark expert, Andrew Nosal, from San Diego’s Scripps Institute of Oceanography commented:

“Unfortunately there is no way to tell how far away the the shark is from the boarder and therefore no scale with which to accurately judge the size of the shark…however, the shark does appear mature, making it at least 10-feet in length.”

The visibility of sharks in northeast waters has in fact increased during the last few years, most notably off Cape Cod, where large and growing seal populations have attracted the apex predators, some in excess of 16-feet in length and well over 2,000 lbs.

Just this week researchers from the Osearch Global Shark Tracker website followed a great white, dubbed Mary Lee, off Jacksonville Beach, Florida. The animal had been tagged in Massachusetts this summer and migrated down the coast as water temperatures cooled.

Nosai supported this pattern, stating:

“Rockaway, New York is well within the normal coastal range of northwest Atlantic white sharks, which can be found from Newfoundland, Canada, well into Florida and even more rarely, the Gulf of Mexico.”

In Australia, which is experiencing record high summer temperatures this January, authorities have begun a program to eliminate problem sharks found in the proximity of swimmers. Near the city of Perth in West Australia, which has suffered 5 fatal great white shark attacks in the last 2 years, numerous shark sightings have prompted fears among surfers and bathers with some blaming climate change as the cause of unusually high shark activity.

While the Rockaway shark in question appears legitimate, one has to ask if the supporting video footage exists. Time will tell if this shark story proves to have teeth.

 

- James Sullivan

 

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