A six-foot sand tiger shark's visit to the shores of Ocean City on Wednesday evening was brief, but a photograph of the shark on the beach has found a home on thousands of Facebook pages.
The image shows the open mouth and ragged teeth of a shark species common to coastal waters worldwide — it serves as a reminder that humans share the ocean with all kinds of creatures.
Ocean City resident Mark Miedama took the photograph about 8 p.m. on Wednesday (Aug. 15) on the beach near 57th Street.
Miedama — a 2010 graduate of Ocean City High School, current Old Dominion University student, Ocean City Beach Patrol member and standout kiteboarder — was watching a familiar sight on the beach that night: a man he knows only as "Shark Tony" fishing for shark from his kayak.
But Tony Cutugno's catch was a little bigger than usual.
"He let the shark have its way for awhile," Miedama said. But after 45 minutes, the fisherman had his kayak and the shark on the beach.
After the photographs were taken, the shark was released back into the ocean, Miedama said.
Bob Schoelkopf, director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, on Friday identified the shark as a sand tiger shark. After looking at a second photograph that showed the shark's profile (see above), Schoelkopf estimated its length at six feet.
Sand tiger sharks are a different species than sand sharks or tiger sharks. They are common in coastal waters throughout North America, and despite a fearsome display of teeth, the species is not particularly aggressive and not known for attacks on humans.
Sand tiger sharks are also known as grey nurse sharks and typically range from 4 to 9 feet in length.
Beaches patrolled by Ocean City Beach Patrol lifeguards remain open and would close only if a shark were spotted in proximity to swimmers.
Many sharks are migratory, moving north up the East Coast as the ocean warms. Cape Cod residents have reported an increasing number of great white shark sightings this summer as the species feasts on the seal population there.