Steve Clark was fishing off Cape May, New Jersey over the weekend when his day got interrupted by a thieving great white shark. For about 20 minutes, the 16-foot shark circled his boat, stopping occasionally to gnaw on his motor and eventually left after biting through Clark’s chum bag.
“It was awesome. It wasn’t scary, cause we’re used to sharks. It was awesome,” Clark told CBS 3.
The encounter happened near the site of a World War II shipwreck well-known to local anglers. Clark and his crew were actually in the area specifically to tag sharks for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Apex Predator Program. Clark had already had already caught and released a 150-pound dusky shark earlier in the day and was relocating when the great white approached.
“It swam down the length of the boat and I happened to see it first,” Clark said. “Obviously, I was a little bit stunned. I didn’t say anything to anybody, I was looking at it, trying to process the information, cause it was quite a big fish.”
Even as a veteran shark angler, Clark said it was probably the closest he will ever get to a great white. The crew took pictures and video of the beast as it circled the boat and boldly snatched up the chum bucket hanging off the side. Without the slightest hint of an apology, the shark soon disappeared from view.
It is a rare treat for anglers to see a great white at all, much less so up close and personal. Compared to other species of sharks, great whites are relatively few in number. A 2010 study by researchers at Standford University estimated there may be fewer than 3,500 great whites left in the wild, making the species more vulnerable to extinction than tigers. However, great white populations in the northern Atlantic seem to be surging lately thanks to recovery efforts. According to the Associated Press, scientists credit federal laws and conservation actions for the boost in great white numbers over the last 14 years.
“The species appears to be recovering,” said NOAA researcher Cami McCandless. “This tells us the management tools appear to be working.”
You can see Clark’s shark video below: