Great White Sharks in North Carolina: Where They Live & How Often They’re Spotted

Great white shark close up in the water
Fiona Ayerst/

Written by Jeremiah Wright

Published: August 10, 2022

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North Carolina, also known as the Tar Heel State, borders the Atlantic Ocean to the east. This makes it a favorable environment for numerous aquatic species. The state’s coastal waters are also home to over ten shark species, including great whites. 

Great white sharks are common in U.S. waters because they’re migratory species. When summer comes, they swim toward Maine, Newfoundland, and Scotia. They live in Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, and North Carolina from fall until late spring. North Carolina’s coast is abundant with great whites, as it’s believed they give birth there. But where exactly do great white sharks live in North Carolina? How often are they spotted? How many shark attacks were they involved in in the area? Let’s find out!

Are there great white sharks in North Carolina?

Great White shark breaching

There are great white sharks in North Carolina.

Yes, there are great white sharks in North Carolina. While we can’t state how many individuals there are, we can find out more about some of them thanks to OCEARCH, a research organization that tagged hundreds of sharks worldwide to track their movements. They can stay in the area all year round, although they usually prefer North Carolina’s waters during winter and spring. 

Where do sharks live in North Carolina?

Great whites can be found all over North Carolina’s coast. While unconfirmed sightings may have occurred over time, we can only check the official data provided by the OCEARCH organization. 

For example, in May 2022, some tagged sharks named Ironbound, Tancook, and Ulysses were spotted near North Carolina. Ulysses’s tracker located him outside the Pamlico Sound. Another shark’s tag pinged on May 11, 2022, outside Albemarle Sound. The shark is called Sable and measures 11.5 feet long. 

Sarah, a 9.8-foot shark, is one of the smallest spotted on the coast. Her tracker pinged on March 28, 2022, off the Pamlico Sound. On June 19, 2022, the OCEARCH reported that Freya, an 11-foot shark, was roaming off Pea Island. One of the largest sharks in North Carolina is named Breton, a 13-foot individual. His tag pinged on May 16, 2022, showing that he was swimming approximately 20 miles from North Carolina’s coast, close to the border of South Carolina. 

If you want to track any of these sharks, you can always check this OCEARCH online resource

Were great whites involved in shark attacks in North Carolina?

Great White Chasing Swimmer

Great whites were rarely involved in attacks near North Carolina.

North Carolina is among the U.S. states with the most shark attacks (97 unprovoked incidents). Unlike other states’ offshore sharks, such as tiger sharks or sandbar sharks, great whites were rarely involved in attacks near North Carolina – that is, if we guide ourselves based on the information the research team from the Global Shark Attack File has at the moment. However, many incidents haven’t yet been linked to a specific shark species. The fact that great whites are the world’s most aggressive shark species may indicate that they might still have been involved in some of these attacks.

If you’re planning to visit North Carolina beaches, we recommend informing yourself about the shark species living in the area – where they live, what they feed on, and whether they are aggressive. Learning how to act during or after a shark attack is advisable. This way, you’ll be prepared for any circumstance. Moreover, you’ll know how to avoid the sharks to remain safe.

Where do great white sharks live in the United States?

Great White shark with fish

Great white sharks are numerous in the Northeastern United States and California.

Great white sharks are common in the United States. They are numerous in the Northeast and California. Recent studies show that the California great white population started migrating to the so-called White Shark Café – an area located between Baja California Peninsula and Hawaii. They spend at least 100 days there. Scientists haven’t officially concluded why so many great whites meet there, but they suppose it’s either for mating or feeding. 

Upon checking the OCEARCH great white tracker, we’ve found numerous sharks on the United States coast. The total number is currently 79, although this information changes every day. Most are in New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida. Some of these sharks are:

  • Breton, a male measuring 13 feet 3 inches and weighing 1,437 pounds, located off South Carolina; its tag was pinged on August 2, 2022;
  • Brunswick, a male measuring 8 feet 9 inches and weighing 441 pounds, located in the northern region of the United States; its tag was pinged on July 30, 2022.

Besides the sharks on the United States coast, there are currently 37 tagged great whites in South Africa.

What other sharks live in North Carolina?

North Carolina’s waters are home both to inshore and offshore sharks. Let’s check out some of them!

6 sharks living in the sounds of North Carolina

SharkScientific nameLength
1Atlantic sharpnose sharkRhizoprionodon terraenovae4 feet
2Bonnethead sharksSphyrna tiburo5 feet
3Blacktip sharksCarcharhinus limbatus6-8 feet
4Bull sharksCarcharhinus leucas10.5 feet
5Smoothhound sharksMustelus mustelus5 feet

9 sharks living in the ocean

SharkScientific nameLength
1Blacknose sharksCarcharhinus acronotus5 feet
2Great white sharksCarcharodon carcharias21 feet
3Dusky sharksCarcharhinus obscurus12 feet
4Sandbar sharksCarcharhinus plumbeus8 feet
5Sand tiger sharksCarcharias taurus6.5-10.5 feet
6Spinner sharksCarcharhinus brevipinna10 feet
7Scalloped hammerhead sharksSphyrna lewini5-8 feet
8Tiger sharksGaleocerdo cuvier18 feet
9Thresher sharkAlopias vulpinus15 feet

What beaches in North Carolina have the most shark attacks? 

The International Shark Attack File lists the following counties in North Carolina with the most unprovoked shark attacks:

CountyNumber of attacks
Brunswick 17
New Hanover 13
Carteret 12
Onslow 10
Dare 8
Hyde 11
Pender 2
Currituck 2

If we were to check the Global Shark Attack File that records all shark attack incidents, including the provoked ones and those that occurred as a result of sea or watercraft disasters, we could outline some specific beaches in the state:

  1. Emerald Isle with ten shark attacks records;
  2. Wrightsville Beach with seven shark attack records;
  3. Holden Beach with six shark attack records;
  4. Carolina Beach with five shark attack records.

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About the Author

I hold seven years of professional experience in the content world, focusing on nature, and wildlife. Asides from writing, I enjoy surfing the internet and listening to music.

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