Are There Sharks in the Chesapeake Bay?

Bull Shark

This bull shark was spotted in Tangier Sound in September of 2016.

Waterman Greg Brown.

The best way to beat the summer heat? A quick jump in the Bay! But how likely are you to hear the Jaws theme song once you make the plunge?

Duuuunnnn duun... duuunnnnnnnn dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dunnnnnnnnnnn dunnnn…

According to the Chesapeake Bay Program, there are at least 12 species of sharks found in the Bay. While some are quite abundant, others are very rare. The five most common sharks in the Bay include the sandbar shark, bull shark, sand tiger shark, smooth dogfish, and spiney dogfish.

You may have heard of the bull shark before, as many shark attacks have been attributed to them and their aggressive nature. But they are only an occasional summer visitor to the Chesapeake Bay (reaching as far north as the Patuxent River) and are not a significant threat to human safety as long as they’re not provoked. In fact, the appearance of these top predators is a sign of a healthy, rebounding ecosystem.

Other common sharks like the sandbar shark and the smooth dogfish are much like the people of the Chesapeake Bay region: they love to munch on blue crab (they also eat other Bay critters like rays and large fish). In fact, the Bay is one of the most important nursery areas on the East Coast for young sandbar sharks.

Scared of a bite? Don’t fret! According the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, there has never been a recorded shark bite in the Chesapeake Bay. You’re actually more likely to die from a lightning strike than a shark attack.

But when swimming in the ocean, Coastal Bays, or even Chesapeake Bay, folks should keep in mind that they are entering the habitat of sharks. Here are some tips:

  • Avoid swimming at dawn and dusk.
  • Avoid swimming in areas with dropoffs.
  • Avoid swimming near people who are fishing.
  • Avoid wearing shiny things.
  • Don't swim alone.

If you see a shark in the Bay, after moving a safe distance away, please make sure to report it to Maryland Department of Natural Resources or the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources.

Rebecca Long_90x110

Rebecca Long

Digital Engagement and Social Media Manager, CBF

Issues in this Post



The views and opinions expressed in the media, articles or comments on this site are those of the speakers or authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions held by CBF and the inclusion of such information does not imply endorsement by CBF. CBF is not responsible for the contents of any linked Web, or any link contained in a linked Web site, or any changes or updates to such Web sites. The inclusion of any link or comment is provided only for information purposes. CBF reserves the right to edit or remove any comments and material posted to this website and to ban users from the site without notice. Partisan, pornographic or other inappropriate content, product or service promotion, foul language or bad behavior is expressly forbidden and will be removed.

Support the Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Your donation helps the Chesapeake Bay Foundation maintain our momentum toward a restored Bay, rivers, and streams for today and generations to come.

Donate Today


Do you enjoy working with others to help clean the Chesapeake Bay? Do you have a few hours to spare? Whether growing oysters, planting trees, or helping in our offices, there are plenty of ways you can contribute.

This website uses cookies to tailor and enhance your online experience. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. For more information, including details on how to disable cookies, please visit our Privacy Policy. Close