Great white shark in the Chesapeake Bay? Calm down

shark boat
Mary Lee, the great white shark, was tagged in Cape Cod, in 2012. (Photo: OCEARCH)

Mary Lee shark
A great white shark, named Mary Lee, weighs more than 3400 pounds, and travels in waters off the east coast. (Photo: OCEARCH)

Reports that Mary Lee was in the Chesapeake Bay were likely erroneous. (Photo: OCEARCH)

shark sighting
Did a great white shark actually make its way up the Chesapeake Bay? (Photo: OCEARCH)

shark boat
Mary Lee shark
shark sighting

WASHINGTON — Almost 40 years to the day after the release of the film “Jaws,’ the report of a 16-foot long, 3,456-pound great white shark in the Chesapeake Bay between North Beach and Tilghman Island is bound to raise eyebrows.

Relax, it’s impossible.


OCEARCH’s Global Shark Tracker technology, which displays the movements of tagged sharks through the nation’s waters, pinged that a shark named Mary Lee was in the Bay on May 29 at 6:22 p.m.

While great whites are often found in the Atlantic Ocean, the thought of a shark swimming almost 50 miles up the Bay strained credulity.

OCEARCH, a non-profit shark research organization, tweets it’s likely a “bad ping in the Chesapeake” resulted in its tracking software placing Mary Lee, who was tagged in Cape Cod in 2012, in the Bay.

According to the group, tags on sharks must be above the surface of the water long enough for a satellite to detect them. Interference can be caused by a variety of factors, including satellite position and the numbers of transmissions.

OCEARCH says Mary Lee was pinged four times that day in the Atlantic off the shores of Avalon, New Jersey, making it far more likely that’s where the great white was.

There are at least 12 species of sharks in the Chesapeake Bay, though few pose threats to humans.

Naturally, Mary Lee has its own Twitter account — @MaryLeeShark.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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