Sharks: How Far North?

How far north do sharks swim along the US East Coast? In general, don’t they hate cold water? And, what about summer when water temps rise? Also, have sharks been found in the Chesapeake? If so, is this typical or are they lost?

(Specifically, I am asking about sharks that can be trouble. Aren’t there sand sharks, for one, that aren’t much bother? Or, am I misinformed here?)

  • Jinx

I don’t know the specifics of the US East Coast, but plenty of large and dangerous breeds of shark are cold water specialists. Great Whites for example.

The ones I can find:

Carcharhinus longimanus - Oceanic Whitetip: can be found along the East Coast as far north as Maine.

Carcharodon carcharias - Great White: can be found even farther north along the coast, into Canada

Galeocerdo cuvier - Tiger Shark: also can be found all along the U.S. Eastern coast, but tends to prefer deeper water.

Isurus oxyrinchus - Shortfin Mako: as far north as the Gulf of Maine

Prionace glauca - Blue Shark: as far north as Newfoundland

Sphyrna lewini - Scalloped Hammerhead: as far north as New Jersey

Sphyrna mokarran - Great Hammerhead: Only as far as North Carolina

Sphyrna zygaena - Smooth Hammerhead: into Nova Scotia

Yes. Typical for today both and since before there was mankind. In 400 years of recorded history no Shark has ever attacked a human in the Chesapeake Bay.

Great Whites attacked off the East Coast as far North at least - off Mass.

As of 2002 on the Great Whites

Great whites are not common in U.S. waters, except for the northern west coast. California has recorded 79 great white attacks throughout history, while Oregon has 14 and Washington State has two. On the Atlantic coast, New Jersey has documented four, while Massachusetts, North Carolina and South Carolina have recorded just one each, although in late July 2001, what was suspected to be a 14-foot great white attacked a charter fishing boat off Cape Cod, Mass.

Some sharks will go all the way into the arctic. Most of the arctic sharks aren’t the really freaking dangerous JAWS type, though. The Greenland shark, for example, is big, but is usually described as being “sluggish” and not really “we need a bigger boat” material. Great whites don’t go completely into the arctic, but they go pretty far north and south. The wikipedia page for great whites has a map showing their range:

(on the right side of the page)

There’s a lot of sharks in the Chesapeake, but most of them are sharks like the sandbar shark. Sandbar sharks are big enough that they could probably put a hurtin on you if they wanted to (six or seven feet long), but they don’t generally chomp on people. People eating sharks, like bull sharks, aren’t completely unknown in the Chesapeake, but they aren’t exactly common there.

This page has a map of shark attacks from 1670 to 2001 if you want to get an idea of where the people biters are hanging out.

Sometimes sharks attack in the strangest places.


There was a fatal shark attack in Buzzard’s Bay, Massachusetts in 1936.

(ETA) and a reported fatal Great White attack of a fisherman in his boat off Scituate in 1830 ( :dubious: ).

The movie Jaws was set in Massachusetts so huge sharks pretty fare north are in the public conscienceness.

Wow. That’s quite an incredible set of events described there. I’m just boggled by the responses to the shark attacks - “Look! a guy just got eaten alive by a shark! - let’s swim out there and have a look!”

There are sharks in the North Atlantic all the way up into the Arctic - but most of them aren’t the dangerous ones you might worry about.

Of about 350 species of sharks, there’s really only a few people ever worry about in terms of shark attacks; Bull sharks, white sharks, tiger sharks. Hammerhead, reef, mako, and some other sharks have been known to attack humans as well, but the first three are the big ones (not that even they attack humans all that often.)

If you’re interested in shark attacks, the International Shark Attack File is a good page to explore.

Oh yeah, and don’t forget about Land Sharks! :wink:

I believe it was set in New York. It was just filmed in Mass.

It’s set on the fictional “Amity Island”. There’s no direct mention of what state Amity is part of, though from several hints in the movie I’d say it’s in Mass - they want to get the Boston news wire to pick up the story of the first dead shark, one of the deputies points to all the license plates - Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey (implying they’re NOT in any of those states), when Brody is practicing his bad New England accent, his wife tells him he sounds like he’s from New York, etc.

As cold as that is, why the heck would any human ever be swimming in that Bay?

I never would have guessed great whites are in the Mediterranean

I thought they mentioned it was off of Long Island. But in it, someone mentions that you’re not considered an Islander unless your residency goes back at least 5 generations. That’s very Martha’s Vineyard, but maybe people say that on Nantucket and Block Island as well.

Block Island is RI, but very close to NY.

But it was definitely shot in Edgartown. In Jaws, Brody gets on the Chappy Ferry. In Jaws II, there is a very unambiguous shot of Edgartown Light.

What’s funny is that a more recent movie, Stuck on You, took place on MV, but was shot in Rockport. Those are my two favorite places in the universe, and I know them well. I was not fooled.

It is quite warm in the Summer ; June the average temp is 72 degrees and July and August are warmer.

In the book Jaws, the story is definitely set in New York (and I’m pretty sure on Long Island - not another island off Long Island). The movie might be more ambiguous.