Tips to Prevent Shark Bites

WASHINGTON — Swimmers who hit the beach might want to avoid wearing flashy bathing suits and shiny jewelry that could be misinterpreted as bait fish.

There are sharks in the waters of area beaches and in the lower Chesapeake Bay, but the Coastal Fisheries Program Manager for Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources said most people don’t need to worry about them.

“Humans are not on the menu for sharks — they’re just out there generally looking for fishes and maybe some cephalopods,” DNR’s Angel Willey said.

Willey thinks people should enjoy themselves, get in the water, swim, fish, paddleboard and kayak.

“With proper precautions, there’s no need to stay out of the water,” Willey said.

Recommended precautions include swimming in groups, avoiding clothes and jewelry that can be reflective in water, and staying away from people fishing from the beach or from boats who might be throwing out pieces of fish or blood or using chum bags.

“Sometimes when people are surf fishing, they’ll use big tuna heads or blue fish and that sort of bait,” Willey said. “I would go away from them.”

There have been two cases of shark bites confirmed by Maryland DNR. One happened in July of 2014 in Chincoteague Bay, when a man hopping out of his boat to go clamming was bitten on this calf by a shark. The second documented occurrence was in August 2014, when a man tried to help an angler land a shark on Assateague Island National Seashore.

“Sharks are really flexible; it sounded like the shark reached around and bit him,” Willey said.

Typically, sharks want nothing to do with people. Still, Willey stands by the above mentioned precautions.

“Reduce your risk, why take the chance?” Willey said.

The University of Florida, Florida Museum of Natural History lists confirmed, unprovoked shark attacks nationwide since 1837 and reports four in Delaware and five in Virginia.

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