Seals, Sharks & New Jersey Surfers

Posted: Apr 30,2012 Written by 

Seal-NJ-Surf-Willis

Photo: Danielle Willis

Little fella’s cute, eh? And to a great white, he’s darn tasty.

This harbor seal appeared on my local New Jersey beach, bellying out of the water while I was doing an impromptu clean-up with my kids. Figured picking up trash gave us some kind of good karma moment. But it did get me thinking…

Until the winter of 2010, I’d seen maybe 2 seals over the all the years I’d been surfing and we’re talking over two decades. Then three popped up in separate incidences during the winter of 2010. Suddenly, they seemed to be everywhere. Friends reported them off beaches between Long Branch and Cape May. They’d come and check us out in the line-up. They sunned themselves on the rocks at Barnegat Inlet. I saw it all as a great sign, assuming that healthy fish populations were drawing them down. But then came the spring and summer and a noticeable rise in shark encounters occurred off New Jersey, including a couple of great whites spotted by credible sources off two centrally located stretches of sand. While I’ve never been afraid of the things that occasionally accompany us in the line-up, I will admit to a heightened sense of awareness last summer. There’s just something about being eaten that makes me think twice about stuff.

Fast forward to this little guy and he’s the fourth seal I’ve seen this winter. The fourth. Couple that with “epic amounts of baitfish” in the water (according to one charter boat captain) and you’ve got quite the setting for some down-home big ass shark sightings.  I’m predicting we see a few more of our toothy brethren off the beaches this summer, cruisin’ around with eyes peeled on our seal friends. But remember, that’s okay. It’s what the oceans all about.  Beauty, mystery, fear, fun, wonder and things that you never imagined.

Oh and in case you didn’t think they were actually around these parts, check out the map below. Happy surfing.

Great White WorldMap--Animal Fact Guide

Image:  Animal Fact Guide