Thursday, August 16, 2012

How Sea Nettles Save Lives

"Oh yeah! We just got bites out of the crab pots, man. No bull****," said Kelly Sullivan, based out of Middle River just east of Baltimore.

Sullivan went on to describe how his crew and he had been pulling pots up all month with massive, foot-wide bite marks that caved in the metal cages' corners. Sullivan, wearing loose-fitting waterproof coveralls, surmised the perpetrator was a bull shark scavenging for either the fish bait, or the crabs they lured.

"We definitely thought about going shark fishing tomorrow," he says.

Unlike the nearby ocean coasts, the bay is not a hotbed for shark sport fishing, largely due to the low numbers of sharks that can exist in the water. Bull sharks are among the only species that can withstand salinity levels that low.
Riding the Tiger, Not the Bull
People who work on the Bay are generally aware that there is a small, but non-zero chance of encountering a large bull shark.  Fisherman occasionally hook something huge that can't be turned a brought to the boat on relatively light tackle.  They even get spotted occasionally, usually in or around pound nets full of fish, for some odd reason...

In similar places in the world, where murky, brackish waters teem with fish, attacks by bull sharks are widely feared. Why not here?

Given the general prevalence of sharks in the bay, it's unusual that there has never been a shark attack here or anywhere else in Maryland, he says.

"In some ways, I think it's surprising it happens that infrequently," says Lowensteiner, based on Solomons Island. "Bull sharks are a common visitor to the Chesapeake Bay."

But unlike hotspots for shark attacks, such as Florida or California, Maryland has a short coastline and very few varieties of sharks, he says. The jellyfish that swarm the bay's tidal waters during the summer also keep would-be swimmers out of the water, says Ide.

Lowensteiner says a bite mark like the ones Sullivan described on his crab pots are likely from a bull shark, which would be upward of 8 feet long.
The dreaded Sea Nettle is saving us from the dreaded Bull Shark?  I'd rather be able to swim, and take my chance with the very rare Bull Shark attack.

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