SEA ISLE, N.J.
The sun was shining and the beach looked relaxing – and safe – until we stopped at a local bait shop to ask what's biting.
"The fishing boats spotted a great white yesterday off Cape May – 3,500 to 4,000 pounds," said the proprietor.
That sounded like a fisherman's larger-than-life tale. But it may have been accurate.
"There's a curvy lady named Mary Lee cruising off the coast of the Jersey Shore," reported Philly's Daily News writer Jason Nark in May. "Mary Lee's a great white shark, arguably the most feared and most misunderstood animal on the planet, and just after 8 a.m. Thursday, the electronic tag that has been tracking her since 2012 'pinged' about 10 miles off the coast of Cape May County, between Wildwood and Stone Harbor."
Two years ago, Mary Lee's weight was reported at 3,456 pounds.
Continued Nark, "At 1:04 p.m.," a time when there's usually a high number of swimmers in the water, "Mary Lee pinged again, this time 12 miles off the coast a little further north, right off the border of Avalon and Sea Isle." That's just a few blocks down the beach from our house – an easy jaunt for Mary Lee.
"Thursday's ping was the closest Mary Lee's ever been to the beach in New Jersey in her nearly 20,000-mile journey since OCEARCH researchers tagged her in Cape Cod on Sept. 17, 2012," explained Nark.
Mary Lee's "been to Bermuda, out to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and she's spent a fair amount of time swimming along the coasts of the southeastern United States," reported Nark. "In the past couple of days, Mary Lee's been off the coast of Delaware and Maryland, and if the tracker is accurate it appears she was even in Chincoteague Bay."
In short, Mary Lee's got some miles on her – more than we put on our car since 2012.
Nark reports that "the most infamous shark attacks ever recorded did happen in New Jersey back in 1916," when the so-called Matawan Man-Eater attacked five people along the Jersey Shore, killing four, two in the brackish Matawan Creek. "The attacks were credited to a 'rogue' great white shark."
Nonetheless, some people, apparently unfazed by "Jaws," say all the shark news from the coast this year is good news.
Nark quotes Marie Levine, executive director of the Shark Research Institute in Princeton, N.J.: "Be glad, because white shark populations are dropping. We want to see the white sharks come back. There's no reason to panic. Sharks are always around us. This is just a good sign."
There are no news reports of a great white ever swimming up the hallway at the Shark Research Institute and making a sharp and unexpected turn into Ms. Levine's office.
In other shark news at the Jersey Shore, the owners of four out of the 12 casinos in Atlantic City locked their doors last year (Trump Plaza, Atlantic Club, Revel and Showboat), generating mass filings of unemployment claims, while two other casinos, Resorts and Trump Taj Mahal, are currently on the ropes, both posting operating losses in the first quarter of 2015.
Ralph R. Reiland is an associate professor of economics at Robert Morris University and a local restaurateur (email@example.com).