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Fear of ‘Jaws’ in local rivers

Posted on Wednesday, September 4, 2013 at 9:47 am

This is one of two Bull Sharks recently caught in the Potomac River.

This is one of two Bull Sharks recently caught in the Potomac River.

Discovery Channel’s annual Shark Week has come and gone, but for local residents on the Potomac River, Jaws might still be lurking.

On Aug. 22, two bull sharks were caught in St. Mary’s County, Md. where the Potomac River meets the Chesapeake Bay.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), bull sharks are one of the top three sharks implicated in unprovoked fatal attacks throughout the world. Bull sharks pose an unusual threat to humans because of their ability to survive in both salt and fresh waters.

Lee Walker is the head of agency outreach for The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF). He says bull sharks are “resilient,” and that sightings

in the area are fairly common.

“Most of the time these fish swim up the tidal systems unseen. It isn’t until somebody like an angler turns around and catches one of these fish that people know they are in the river system,” Walker said.

Walker said the DGIF hasn’t “had any reports of attacks on individuals within our river systems here, whether it be the Potomac, the James, (or) the Rappahannock,” but encourages individuals to be vigilant.

“With a species like a shark, where there is potential hazard with swimming with them. We always recommend people avoid swimming in the late hours and early hours… especially at night until the sun comes up,” he said.

Walker also cautioned against splashing and other movements that “mimic fish,” and emphasized that, “if there is a confirmed shark sighting in a swimming area the best recommendation is [not to] get in the water until it has been cleared.”