Great white shark sighting in the Chesapeake Bay? Nah, just a ping.

Put away the harpoons. Reports of a great white shark in the Chesapeake Bay on May 29th may have been a lot of excitement about nothing. A great white was reported in the Bay last Friday, kinda. 

The website Ocearch tracks adult great whites as they swim the world’s oceans. Researchers tag adult sharks and let the public follow their pings.

Great white shark, Mary Lee, being tagged
Ocearch researchers tagging Mary Lee, a great white shark, at Cape Cod, Massachusetts, January 2013 (Photo courtesy Ocearch)

Mary Lee, a 16 foot, more than 3,400 pound shark that often patrols off the East Coast of the U.S., was on her way to the New Jersey coastline last week when she pinged just off Chesapeake Beach, Maryland on Friday evening. That’s about midway up the Chesapeake Bay where great whites don’t usually roam. Ocearch sent out a Facebook notice of the ping.

Oceana Facebook post on the shark Mary Lee
Ocearch May 29 Facebook post on Mary Lee, a great white shark heading up to Cape Cod for the summer months. It’s a bit cautious of the Chesapeake Bay homing ping.

But before you start playing the Jaw’s music — “DUH, duh, DUH, duh…” — Ocearch figures it was just a misplaced ping. Ocearch explained on their Facebook page, “Bad ping in the Chesapeake.” They go on to explain “it has to do with the quality of the transmission.”

Oceana Facebook post responding to questions about the possibility of a great white share in the Chesapeake Bay
Ocearch Facebook post responding to questions about the possibility of a great white shark in the Chesapeake Bay
Oceana shark tracker map of Mary Lee
Map showing Mary Lee’s movements over the past month. One lonely ping in the Chesapeake Bay indicates the likelihood of a false ping (Map courtesy Ocearch shark tracker)

Chesapeake Bay does have sharks. Just not great white sharks. Chesapeake Bay Program says “there are at least 12 species of sharks found in the Bay.” However, there’ve been no reports of shark attacks in the Chesapeake Bay or in Maryland. A few shark attacks have been reported in Virginia coastal waters, but none in the Chesapeake.

WTOP Radio science writer Neal Augenstein points out the Mary Lee great white shark ping occurred nearly on the 40th anniversary of the movie ‘Jaws’ release (June 20, 1975). DUH, duh, DUH, duh…

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Here’s an August 3, 2014 video of a Maryland great white shark encounter by fishermen off of the Ocean City coastline:

“This 13-15 foot great white was found only 6 miles from the beach while shark fishing at Ocean City, Maryland. It circled the boat for about an hour long. The footage has been cut down to some of the best clips we got. The shark bit at the engine and the boat hull multiple times until it finally located the chum” – Aaron Caplain

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