Stand up for the facts!

Our only agenda is to publish the truth so you can be an informed participant in democracy.
We need your help.

More Info

I would like to contribute

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher March 29, 2023

No, a great white shark was not beached in North Carolina, image is fake

If Your Time is short

  • A shark-tracking organization and local police confirmed that a great white shark did not beach in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

  • A misinformation expert said the images shared in the post appear to be AI-generated.

A Facebook post with several images claimed that a great white shark beached just off the North Carolina coast.

"A giant great white shark found washed out on the Outer Banks beach, North Carolina," the caption said. "A team of onlookers doing their best to push it back into the ocean." Photos in the post show a beached shark and people trying to move it back into the ocean.

The March 28 post was from Coastfish TV, which is listed on Facebook as a video creator in Australia.

The post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

Officials said it didn’t happen. 

"Fake news," said Chris Fischer, founding chairman of Ocearch, a nonprofit shark-tracking organization. 

"No white shark on the beach in OBX," he wrote in an email to PolitiFact, using a common abbreviation for Outer Banks. "That’s an old pic from a stranded shark that has been modified."

The images in the Facebook post are credited to OBX Photos. 

The images appear in a March 25 post on OBX Photos’ Facebook page, which includes a location of Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. The post caption is nearly identical to the post we’re fact-checking. 

We contacted OBX Photos but got no reply.

Featured Fact-check

A spokesperson for the Kill Devil Hills Police Department told PolitiFact that there was no great white shark beaching.

Indeed, the Facebook poster later seemed to admit it was a fake.

In another Facebook post the next day, Coastfish TV wrote: "The jury is still open for many after several images of a beached Great White Shark goes viral on social media. Some say it's fake while other swear it's as real as it gets. Let's take a look at an article published by 'Spectrum News' back in 2018." The post included one of the photos from the initial post with text across it reading, "Real or fake?"

That 2018 Spectrum News story was headlined, "Shark in viral photo did not wash up on the Outer Banks." That photo was taken in 2014 at Whitecrest Beach in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, the story said.

Claire Wardle, a Brown University expert in misinformation and verification, told PolitiFact the images shared in the Facebook post likely were generated by artificial intelligence. 

There was a great white near the Outer Banks, though. Ocearch, which tags and tracks great white sharks, tagged a great white in 2020 that it named Breton and found him again surfacing off the Outer Banks on March 25 and March 28. 

Breton is a 13-foot, 1,400-pound male, according to the group.

Great white sharks, which inspired the shark in the "Jaws" movies, are found in cool, coastal waters around the world, according to National Geographic. 

Great whites, the largest predatory fish on Earth, grow to an average of 15 feet in length, though some exceed 20 feet and weigh up to 5,000 pounds.

Officials said a great white shark did not beach in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, so we rate the claim False.

Our Sources

Facebook, post, March 28, 2023 (archived

Facebook, OBX Photos post, March 25, 2023 (archived)

Spectrum News, "'20 foot' shark in viral photo did not wash up on the Outer Banks," Feb. 19, 2018

Interview, Kill Devil Hills Police Department spokesperson, March 29, 2023

Email, Chris Fischer, founding chairman, Ocearch, March 29, 2023

CNN, "A 1,500 pound great white shark named ‘Breton’ is currently swimming off the coast of North Carolina," March 27, 2023

Live5News, "Massive 1,500-pound great white shark pings near Outer Banks ahead of spring break," March 28, 2023

Newsweek, "Great White Sharks Are Gathering off North Carolina," March 28, 2023

Ocearch, "Breton," accessed March 28, 2023

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Tom Kertscher

No, a great white shark was not beached in North Carolina, image is fake

Support independent fact-checking.
Become a member!

In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.

Sign me up