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Bay scientist says catch of 310-pound bull shark a 'sign of a healthy, rebounding' Chesapeake

The 310-pound bull shark a Maryland waterman recently caught may be unusual and seem alarming, but a Chesapeake Bay Foundation scientist says not to worry, calling it "another sign of a healthy, rebounding ecosystem."

Hoopers Island waterman Larry “Boo” Powley found the nearly 9-foot shark in a net at the mouth of the Patuxent River on Monday. He said it was the largest shark he had seen in his 42 years on the Chesapeake.

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A commercial fisherman pulled an 8.6-foot, 310-pound bull shark from his pound net trap just below Cedar Point at the mouth of the Patuxent River in Southern Maryland on Monday — an uncommon catch that has been the buzz of the bay as the picture has made its rounds.

In a post to the bay foundation’s website, Doug Myers, the organization’s Maryland senior scientist, said that’s a good thing.

“The appearance of top predators like these is another sign of a healthy, rebounding ecosystem,” he said.

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Bull sharks are the most likely type of shark to be found in Maryland waters, visiting estuaries like the Chesapeake to breed, he said. Young bull sharks spend several years in those estuaries before venturing out into the ocean.

They have been found as far north as the Bay Bridge, Myers said.

And they don’t pose much of a threat to humans. There has never been a shark attack recorded in the bay, the foundation said.

Researchers have confirmed some 450 sightings of bottlenose dolphins over the past year in the Chesapeake Bay and tributaries including the Potomac River. They hope the unexpected deluge of reports is a sign that improving bay health is inviting more of the marine mammals to visit.

Myers called bull sharks “opportunistic feeders” that prey on fish, birds and even other types of shark.

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The shark Powley caught isn’t the only large creature surprising boaters on the Chesapeake — dolphins have been appearing by the hundreds around the bay.

Scientists have theorized they are following schools of fish and finding the bay to be a more hospitable environment than in the past — perhaps the mammoth bull shark is a sign they aren’t the only ones.

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