VERIFY: Are there sharks swimming the Chesapeake Bay?

QUESTION:

Do sharks swim in the Chesapeake Bay?

ANSWER:

Yes, there are currently sharks swimming in the Chesapeake.

SOURCES:

Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Florida Program for Shark Research, Virginia Institute of Marine Science

PROCESS:

Maryland Department of Natural Resources confirmed that sharks are in the Chesapeake Bay. According to a June 21 article, which lists some of the following fish that are found there including: blacktip, dusky, sandbar, spinner, scalloped hammerhead, smooth hammerhead, tiger, sand tiger and smooth dogfish sharks may be found nearshore from May/June through September/October.

MDNRP says that hammerhead sharks in the Chesapeake were first reported way back in 1876 and bull sharks have been spotted as far north as Aberdeen Proving Grounds but most are seen near the Choptank, Patuxent, and Potomac rivers. Officials confirm there has never been a shark bite reported in the Chesapeake, only one bite reported in the Chincoteague Bay.

Fourty-five-year veteran program director of the Florida Program for Shark Research, George Burgess, tells WUSA9 that bull sharks are responsible for most the shark attacks that he’s documented throughout his career.

“When they go after a prey item they do it with full tenacity and they come back for repetitive bites and so forth… and so a bite on a human from a bull shark often leads to a second bite from that same shark. It’s very persistent.”

Burgess said bull sharks are definitely the deadliest sharks in the sea, before the summer ends an estimated two of these sharks will be coming out of the Chesapeake Bay region in lower reaches of one of the main rivers.

A reason these types of shark attacks can occur is due to sharks mistaken the kicking of feet or splashing of hands as being activity of normal prey items. They then take quick bites, called hit-and-run attacks, the program director informs.

So is there reason to be concerned about seeing a bull shark if you’re swimming in the Chesapeake Bay this summer?

According to Jim Gartland, Assistant Research scientist at the Virginia Institute for Marine Science, the chances of seeing a bull shark are very slim.

Burgess said in 2016 only four fatal worldwide shark attacks occurred; two in the French Territory of New Caladonia, one in Australia and one in the Indian Ocean.

Maryland Department of Natural Resources has provided some tips on what to do before going shark fishing in the Chesapeake which includes:

1.Get some firsthand practical experience identifying, handling and gearing up from local mentors such as a fishing group, guide or charter captain.

2. Have the appropriate license (s), tackle, tools, measuring tape, identification guide, regulations and a release plan.

3. Check for local regulations. The Town of Ocean City has relevant surf fishing ordinances. For more safety precautions tips from Maryland Department of Natural Resources, click here.

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© 2017 WUSA-TV


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