Great white sharks in North Carolina are among the most misunderstood animals on our planet. These apex predators are integral to the natural functioning of the marine ecosystem, and they’re among the most impressive fish on the planet. They’re also among the largest species of shark around, with adults growing up to 20 feet long. It’s thought that these magnificent creatures live for anywhere from 70-100 years.
Here, we’ll take a closer look at great white sharks on the eastern coast of the United States, and North Carolina in particular. We’ll learn more about the most recent great white shark sightings off the coast of North Carolina. We’ll get to know a few of these sharks by name, and find out why scientists think great whites come to the coastal waters of North Carolina. Then, we’ll take a look at the shark attacks reported in North Carolina over the years.
Hopefully, by the end, you’ll have a healthy respect for these fascinating predators.
Great White Sharks Along the East Coast
You might be wondering why there are great white sharks off the coast of North Carolina. The answer lies in the great white’s seasonal migration pattern. These enormous sharks rely on near-constant motion to survive and may swim thousands of miles per year.
Great white sharks winter in the warm waters of the coast of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. Then, in the early summer, they head north to Maine, Newfoundland, and Nova Scotia, where they’ll feed until the fall. Then, it’s back down the coast to warmer waters.
Based on observations of baby great white sharks off the coast of North Carolina, scientists believe that great whites give birth in the area. They hypothesize that the warm, shallow coastal waters are the perfect place for baby great whites to grow big and strong before venturing into the open ocean.
Where are the Great White Sharks in North Carolina?
Thanks to OCEARCH, a research organization dedicated to learning more about sharks, we can tell exactly where great white sharks go. This includes the coast of North Carolina. OCEARCH has recorded great whites visiting both Pamlico Sound and Onslow Bay. The sharks generally stay about 20 miles away from land though, so there’s not much worry for beach swimmers.
Unfortunately for the curious, there are no great white sharks in captivity. Great whites simply don’t survive in cages due to their dietary and migration needs. These sharks are currently listed as Vulnerable, and face threats from commercial killing and entanglement in fishing nets.
Let’s meet the six great white sharks recorded off the coast of North Carolina in 2022!
According to her tracker, Sable has traveled all the way from Newfoundland to the Gulf of Mexico several times. Her tracker last pinged on May 11th, 2022 just outside of Albemarle Sound. Sable is 11.5 feet long, with an estimated weight of around 800 pounds.
Last tracked on March 10th, 2022, Freya hasn’t traveled quite as far as Sable. This 11.26-foot great white travels between Miami and Maine for her yearly sojourn. Freya is estimated to weigh almost 900 pounds.
Ulysses is an 11.9-foot-long great white shark estimated to weigh around 1,000 pounds. He was last tracked off the coast of North Carolina outside the Pamlico Sound on May 26th, 2022. Ulysses doesn’t go much farther south than Georgia, and he’s been tracked farther from the coast than most of the great whites under OCEARCH’s surveillance.
Sarah, one of the smaller great white sharks seen in coastal North Carolina, weighs around 630 pounds. She measures just 9.8 feet long. Her tracker last pinged on March 28th, 2022, off the Pamlico Sound. Sarah doesn’t travel any farther south than South Carolina. She spends a lot of time off the coast of North Carolina.
Hirtle was one of the first great white sharks OCEARCH tagged. He’s well-traveled and tends to stay farther from the coast than other sharks. Hirtle measures in at nearly 11 feet long, though no weight is listed for him. He was last tracked off the coast of North Carolina on February 9th, 2022.
One of the smallest great whites on our list, Santiago, weighs in at 140 pounds and measures only 6 feet long. He was last tracked off the southern tip of the Pamlico Sound on January 20th, 2022. As a young shark, he hasn’t done much traveling and has never been south of North Carolina. At least, since he’s had his tracker.
Have There Been Shark Attacks off the North Carolina Coast?
Despite their fearsome reputation, great white shark attacks are few and far between. Unfortunately, these apex predators can do a lot of damage with a single bite. That was the case in 2019 when a great white shark attacked a 17-year-old girl at Fort Macon State Park.
Prior to that attack, there have been several unconfirmed great white shark attacks off the coast of North Carolina. One of these attacks occurred in 1945, and another in 1957. Despite the plethora of great white sharks off North Carolina’s coast, there have been fewer than a dozen recorded attacks.
While great white sharks may be scary to some, they do not hunt people, and attacks are extremely rare. Great whites hunt seals and sea lions, migrate, give birth to pups, and spend most of their lives alone. They come in close to beaches only infrequently and almost never come into contact with humans.
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