Huge Great White Shark Spotted Off Alabama’s Coast Just in Time for Summer

Great white shark, Carcharodon carcharias
© Martin Prochazkacz/

Written by Nina Phillips

Published: May 16, 2024

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A great white shark was spotted off of Alabama’s coast. It was nicknamed “Miss Pawla.” Researchers at the University of South Alabama ended up seeing the shark and recording a video as it swam close by in the middle of April.

She was actually seen twice. The researchers who spotted her were focused on monitoring fish in an artificial reef zone about 150 feet deep near the coast of Alabama. The first sighting was on the 10th of April while the researchers were in the water, which is the video above. 10 days later, she was spotted again. However, by the third of May, she was no longer in the area.

Miss Pawla is a juvenile and is an estimated eight feet long. Based on her size, she’s likely around 15 years old. Since great white sharks don’t reach maturity until they’re about 30, she still has quite a ways to go.

Why Is This a Big Deal?

Great white sharks are often seen along the coasts of the United States. However, they’re rarely seen around Alabama. Most often, great whites lurk near New England states and California. On occasion, they can be found in the Gulf of Mexico.

This was the first official discovery of a great white shark in the area. This research group has studied more than 1,000 artificial and natural reefs near Alabama over the course of 10 years. Despite that, Miss Pawla was the first great white shark ever seen.

While researchers say this is the first time they’ve seen a great white, there have been a few reports by local fishermen. Now, scientists are starting to wonder if great whites around the area are more common than once thought.

Are Great White Sharks Dangerous?

Great White Shark on the attach showing mouth wide open.

A great white shark in full attack coming right at you. You can see all the teeth and down into the gullet.

©Martin Heyn/iStock via Getty Images

Great white sharks are not specifically aggressive towards humans. For the most part, they don’t consider people food, and they would rather leave them alone.

However, when hungry, curious, or when they mistake us for a different animal, they can attack. This is why it’s dangerous to be near a great white unless you’re fully prepared. Sharks often give test bites when there is something they’re curious about. At their large size and with their large teeth, even a test bite can be incredibly dangerous for people.

Still, that doesn’t mean you have to be terrified of great whites every time you’re near the beach. There are about 70 to 80 unprovoked shark attacks a year. While great whites make up most of the attacks, there are a total of 34 different species known to bite.

Where Are Great White Sharks Found?

Umhlanga rocks Durban South Africa

The coasts of South Africa are a hot spot for great whites.

©Photo Africa SA/

Around the US, you will find great white sharks around most of the country’s coasts. They are near Maine all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico on the Atlantic side. On the Pacific side of the country, they’re found from Alaska to California, around Hawaii, and around Mexico.

However, most great whites are actually not found near the United States. South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand reportedly have the highest populations.

How Large Do Great White Sharks Get?

Great whites can get quite big.

©Terry Gross / CC BY 2.5 – Original / License

Great white sharks start out 4 feet long when they’re born. By the time they’re 30, they will be closer to 20 feet long, and over 4,000 pounds.

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About the Author

Nina is a writer at A-Z Animals, FIDIS Travel, and Giant Freakin Robot. Her focus is on wildlife, national parks, and the environment. She has been writing about animals for over three years. Nina holds a Bachelor's in Conservation Biology, which she uses when talking about animals and their natural habitats. In her free time, Nina also enjoys working on writing her novels and short stories. As a resident of Colorado, Nina enjoys getting out in nature, traveling, and watching snow hit the mountains from her enclosed porch.

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