Increase in shark sightings on Eastern Shore due to targeting by fishermen?

Despite claims, shark data appears 'ordinary'

The sand shark has many faces behind it.

For  researchers at the Maryland Department of the Environment, it could be a smooth dogfish, spiny dogfish or a sand tiger shark.

In the last few weeks, vacationers enjoying the beaches at Ocean City and north into Delaware have reported more sightings of sharks washing up on beaches. In June, Delaware officials confirmed a teen was attacked by a sand shark at Henlopen State Park.

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Despite the reports, Maryland DNR officials said nothing appears out of the ordinary. The same was said by Delaware officials after Henlopen was reopened.

“I haven't heard anecdotal information indicating that the other species are being caught more frequently than normal this year,” said Angel Willey, fisheries biologist for DNR.

To monitor the shark population and endangered species, Maryland started the Catch Card and Tagging Program in 1999.

“The cards provide an opportunity to collect biological data that could be used in stock assessments including: lengths, weights, and the sex ratios of encountered shark populations,” Willey said.

John Martin, president of Martin Fish Company on the Eastern Shore, said many fisherman are targeting specific types of sand sharks for catching. He believes that could be the reason many visitors to the shore believe they are seeing more sharks this year.

The targeting includes the smooth dogfish.

Martin said most of the sharks are caught through gillnetting. Once caught, the meat of the shark is often sold up north or locally to restaurants.

“It’s usually cooked locally and known as steakfish,” he said of the smooth dogfish. “It’s been cooked that way around here for years- not common outside Maryland.”

Martin added that overall, waterman operating bigger boats have seen better success then smaller ones.

“The weather made it hard for smaller fisherman to catch things,” he said. “It’s been a hard year for sure.”

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