Just in time for the start of the summer beach season ... cue the music from "Jaws."

Generally, coastal South Jersey's shark scares come later in the summer, when long hot beach days have fried many a mind, and there's nothing like a fin slicing through the water to liven up the doldrums.

But we're starting early this year.

Last week, three fishermen out of Little Egg Harbor Township returned from a fishing trip 30 miles southeast of Atlantic City with cellphone video of an approximately 14-foot great white shark lazily circling their 28-foot boat.

"Unspeakable. Like nothing I've ever seen before," Rob Pompilio told Philadelphia TV station NBC10. The shark was apparently more curious than aggressive - although Pompilio said it did leave teeth marks on the boat. "The teeth were huge. It came up, just grabbed the boat, saw it wasn't edible and went back down," he told the TV station.

And just days before that incident, a 303-pound mako shark jumped into a 31-foot sportfishing boat off Manasquan Inlet.

Tom Tostron Jr., of Wall Township, and Clint Simek, of Brielle, were shark fishing when the mako, more than 8 feet long, jumped into the bow of the boat, where it ate through a broom stick, seat cushions and the fiberglass deck before Tostron and Simek subdued it with a gaff and a rope. Makos, especially females, are known to be jumpers.

So what gives? Is it time to panic? To run from the ocean screaming in fear? Of course not.

As Jacques Cousteau famously said decades ago, in any ocean in the world, you are never more than a quarter-mile from a shark that could kill you.

After all, the ocean is their home. We're the interlopers. But the good news is, attacks are rare. And other than taking the routine precaution of being aware of what's going on around you in the ocean - and looking out for fins - there's no reason not to enjoy the beach and ocean as you usually do.

Interestingly, an explosion in the East Coast seal population may be drawing more sharks to the waters off New Jersey and points further north.

That's been bad for the cod population - seals eat cod. And good for the shark population - sharks eat seals.

So neither that great white that circled Rob Pompilio's boat nor the mako that jumped into Tom Tostron Jr.'s boat are any cause for a full-blown shark scare along the Jersey shore this summer.

All they are is yet one more reminder that we share this world with some fascinating, beautiful creatures who usually go about their business without much concern with or interest in those pesky Homo sapiens.

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