We all know the iconic music and rampant hysteria associated with "Jaws", the scary shark blockbuster that has been terrifying swimmers for decades. But are sharks really in the waters around Maryland? And more importantly, are they dangerous?
Let's start with the first question. Yes, there are sharks living in and around Maryland's beaches and Bay. Sandbar sharks are regular seasonal visitors, and so are smooth and spiny dogfish. (If you saw a dogfish, you might not even realize that it was a shark. They're small and don't resemble the iconic Great White at all.) Like most Marylanders, they'd rather snack on seafood than anything else.
Bull sharks are also not uncommon in the waters of Maryland. These sharks are known to be more aggressive, but they're not known to hurt locals. Marylanders sometimes get freaked out because bull sharks can swim in both salty and fresh water, and therefore sometimes go into Chesapeake Bay or local rivers.
Ocean City made headlines last year when a 12-year-old girl was bitten by a shark -- but this kind of thing is extremely rare. There are an average of 40 shark attacks in the USA each year, and most of them occur in Florida. Out of those attacks, very few are fatal. The last recorded shark fatality in Maryland was back in 1906, in Tangier Sound.
Experts say that while your odds of getting bitten by a shark are slim, you can take a few steps to be even safer. Take off jewelry that might attract sharks (it may look like shimmering fish scales), and don't splash or thrash around too much. If you do see one, stay calm, and leave the water right away. It's a good idea to only swim in the ocean when there are lifeguards on duty, too.
Meanwhile, sharks are getting the short end of the stick. While very few of them attack us, we frequently fish for them, destroy their habitats, and pollute their waters! By arming ourselves with knowledge, we can learn more about our fellow fishy Marylanders -- and avoid spreading panic and fear! (And if you want to see them up close in a safe, controlled way, the National Aquarium in Baltimore's Inner Harbor has plenty of these cool creatures on display!)