Hammerhead Shark Appears To Be Injured Or Ill; Spotted This Afternoon In Back Bays

Hammerhead Shark Appears To Be Injured Or Ill; Spotted This Afternoon In Back Bays

OCEAN CITY — The hammerhead shark spotted along the beach in Ocean City on several occasions over the last two days is apparently ill or injured and has made its way to the back bays behind the resort.

Ocean City Beach Patrol Captain Butch Arbin confirmed late Thursday afternoon the hammerhead, which had attempted to beach itself on the resort shoreline on multiple occasions on Wednesday and Thursday, had gone through the Inlet and was somewhere in the bay. The charter boat “Happy Hooker” actually hooked up the apparently ill hammerhead on Thursday afternoon in the bay south of the Route 50 bridge while targeting other species and released the big shark. Numerous other vessels have submitted videos of the shark and it’s clearly hampered by something.

Arbin said the first sighting was reported around 3 p.m. on Wednesday and beach patrol officers cleared the water. The shark went back out and reappeared around 5 p.m. on Wednesday was traveling south along the shoreline close to the beach. Arbin said Beach Patrol officers cleared the water about two blocks ahead of the shark as it traveled south along the coastline.

“We pulled people out of the water a couple blocks ahead of the shark as it swam south along the beach,” he said. “That’s our protocol whenever there is anything in the water that could be dangerous from a boat adrift, a large piece of driftwood, a dead whale or a dead or injured sea turtle.”

Arbin said the Beach Patrol followed the shark along the coastline until about dark on Wednesday and picked it up again on Thursday after more sightings were reported. Arbin said he last saw the shark on Thursday afternoon near the pier, shortly before it went through the Inlet.

Because of its multiple attempts to beach itself and its unusual behavior of swimming close to the shore, Arbin said the feeling is the shark is ill or injured. Others who encountered the shark, including the “Happy Hooker” captain, agreed the shark appeared to be ill.

“They just don’t cruise close to the shore like that for an extended period of time,” said Arbin. “They need to constantly swim to get air through their gills and the shark wouldn’t normally behave the way it has. They just don’t do that.”

Arbin said the shark was essentially washed through the Inlet because it wasn’t strong enough to swim against the current. He said the beach patrol was conducting recertification training near the Inlet with the shark in the area.

“It wasn’t anything that was scary,” he said. “We never really had any fear that it was going to attack somebody, but we just watched it and followed it to see what it was going to do.”

Arbin said the Beach Patrol was in close contact with the National Aquarium and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) throughout the last two days. He said the National Aquarium and DNR advised the Beach Patrol if the shark beached itself again to safely try to keep it from going back out so it could run tests and take samples to see what was causing its illness and unusual behavior.

As of late Thursday, the shark’s location has been in the thoroughfare from the Route 50 Bridge to as far north as the 28th Street area.

Arbin said there was little hope of capturing the ill shark and attempting to save it, but it could be collected at some point if possible to determine what was wrong with it.

For videos of the shark in the back bay from this afternoon, click over to www.facebook.com/thedispatchoc

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.