10 Sharks in New Jersey Waters

Written by Brandi Allred
Updated: September 7, 2022
Image Credit iStock.com/dottedhippo
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If you’re thinking about taking a dip on the New Jersey coast this summer, you just might want to know about the sharks in New Jersey waters. New Jersey lies on the Atlantic coast, and is home to many species of shark. In 1916, New Jersey became home to some of the most infamous shark attacks in history. Today, shark attacks in the state are incredibly rare.

Let’s check out ten sharks in New Jersey waters!

1. Smooth Dogfish

smooth dogfish shark
The smooth dogfish is the most common shark in New Jersey waters.

Rafeed Hussain/Shutterstock.com

Smooth dogfish pups grow up in many of New Jersey’s shallow estuaries, including Little Egg Harbor and Great Bay. These sharks in New Jersey waters live along the entire Atlantic coast. They grow to a maximum length of five feet, though their average length is closer to three. Smooth dogfish are not dangerous to humans. In fact, they’re often fished and eaten by people.

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2. Chain Catshark

Chain Catshark
These sharks look similar to leopard sharks in appearance.

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Chain catsharks are some of the prettiest sharks in New Jersey waters. These sharks lay tiny eggs—less than the length of a finger—among shallow kelp beds. Adults grow to no more than two feet long, and have light brown bodies with irregular black, chain-like markings. They’re common along the Atlantic Coast and the Gulf of Mexico. Chain catsharks pose no threat to humans.

3. Sand Tiger Shark

Sand tiger shark (Carcharias taurus) swimming with other fish in an aquarium.
Many sand tiger sharks swim along New Jersey’s coast during the summer months.

Valeri Potapova/Shutterstock.com

Sand tiger sharks in New Jersey waters have a fearsome appearance, but don’t worry—they’ve never been responsible for a human fatality. They grow up to seven feet long, and tend to stick close to the coast. There have been fewer than 30 recorded bites from sand tiger sharks globally; they’re not a threat to humans. They have just one pup, or less, per year, which makes them especially vulnerable to extinction due to overfishing, pollution, and the shark fin soup industry.

4. Dusky Shark

Dusky shark
These sharks look like miniature torpedoes with gray sides and backs and lighter bellies.

Rich Carey/Shutterstock.com

Currently, dusky sharks in New Jersey waters are considered Vulnerable. Globally, they’re listed as Endangered. This is largely because they’re heavily targeted for the shark fin soup industry. Adult dusky sharks eat fish, other sharks, stingrays, squid, octopus, sea turtles, and even carrion. They grow up to 13 feet long, and take about 20 years to reach maturity.

5. Scalloped Hammerhead

Scalloped Hammerhead Shark (Sphyrna lewini)
Once one of the most common schooling sharks in our oceans, the scalloped hammerhead is today extremely endangered due to overfishing.

Ian Scott/Shutterstock.com

Scalloped hammerheads are some of the most interesting sharks in New Jersey waters. Unfortunately, due to overfishing and the demand for their fins as ingredients in shark fin soup, the population of these gentle fish has declined by more than 95% in recent years. Scalloped hammerheads have hammer shaped heads with scalloped front edges. They grow up to 14 feet long, and do not pose any danger to humans. They eat herring, mackerel, sardines, and other fish.

6. Blue Shark

A Blue shark (Prionace glauca) in Atlantic ocean near Pico (Azores Islands).
These sharks have some of the longest noses of all sharks.

Anna L. e Marina Durante/Shutterstock.com

Blue sharks can be found all over the world. They grow up to 12 feet long for females, with males topping out around nine feet. They eat a wide variety of creatures, including crab, shrimp, lobster, cuttlefish, smaller sharks, and carrion. Blue sharks are generally shy, but may approach people in the water, especially if they’re carrying fish. These sharks are not dangerous to humans, though there have been a few recorded bites, none of which resulted in human fatality. 

7. Porbeagle

Porbeagle shark close-up
If you’ve ever wondered what a miniature great white shark would look like, look no further than the porbeagle.

These sharks live along the northern Atlantic Coast of the United States. They’re one of the most endangered sharks in New Jersey waters. Like great whites and salmon sharks, they’re classified as mackerel sharks, and eat a wide variety of bony fish. Porbeagles grow up to ten feet long, and have large eyes and torpedo shaped bodies. Young porbeagles stick close to shore, living and hunting in shallow waters until they’re big enough to survive the open ocean.

8. Shortfin Mako Shark

Shortfin mako shark swimming just under the surface, offshore, about 50 kilometers past Western Cape in South Africa. This picture was taken during a blue water baited shark dive.
Mako sharks are the fastest fish in the world; they can swim up to 60 miles per hour.

wildestanimal/Shutterstock.com

Shortfin mako sharks in New Jersey waters are Endangered; their population has fallen significantly in the last ten years. Males grow up to seven feet long, while females may reach up to 13 feet in length. A few of their primary threats are sport fishing, commercial fishing, and death as bycatch (accidental death from entanglement in nets or fishing lines). There have been a total of ten unprovoked attacks on humans attributed to shortfin mako sharks, one of which was fatal.

9. Common Thresher Shark

Longest Tail: The Common Thresher Shark
Thresher sharks have the longest tails of any species of shark; they can make up half their total body length.

Common thresher sharks in New Jersey waters are very common. Their population has declined drastically in the last few decades however, and they’re currently in danger of extinction. Thresher sharks have very long tails, which they use to stun schools of fish. They’re generally found in the open ocean, though young threshers stay in shallow nurseries for the first part of their life. Adults can measure over 20 feet long, and even baby threshers measure at least three feet long.

10. Great White Shark

Strongest animal bite – great white shark
Perhaps the most infamous shark of all, the great white, is responsible for more attacks (and fatalities) on humans than any other shark.

Ramon Carretero/Shutterstock.com

Great white sharks in New Jersey waters tend to stick far from shore. However, large white sharks occasionally come in for a closer look. New York Bight, on the New Jersey shore, is home to a great white shark nursery. These sharks hunt large fish, seals, sea lions, sea turtles, and other sharks. They’ve even been observed feasting on dead whales. Great white sharks grow up to 20 feet long, though most are closer to 16 feet when fully grown.

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About the Author

I am a professional writer by day and a fiction writer by night. My nonfiction work focuses on animals, nature, and conservation. I hold degrees in English and Anthropology, and spend my free time writing horror, scifi, and fantasy stories.

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