WASHINGTON, D.C. – Shark enthusiasts are flocking to the nation’s capital this summer to catch a glimpse of several dozen bull sharks which – due in part to increasingly warmer climates – have migrated further inland than usual, traveling up the Potomac River from the Chesapeake Bay.
“We’ve had at least forty-three confirmed bull shark sightings in July alone,” Jed Blatter, owner of Blatter’s Boat Tours, a Washington, D.C.-based amphibious tour company, told The Washington Post. Due to the Potomac’s often murky waters, Blatter said his boats frequently circle the shallow waters off the coast of Roosevelt Island where the bull sharks have been known to hang out.
However, as a result of increased boat traffic on the Potomac, some tour boat operators are turning to a process known as chumming to lure sharks away from Roosevelt Island and into other shallow areas of the river. Illegal in some parts of the world because of the increased risk it poses to humans, chumming is the act of using a mixture of blood, bone, and fish parts to lure sharks into a specific area.
“We don’t typically encourage chumming because of its adverse effects on marine life,” Blatter said. “Now having said that, we offer a special excursion on Sundays which is geared toward more experienced swimmers. We hit the water before sunrise and head over to a little rock cluster known as the Three Sisters where it gets to be around forty feet deep. We put you in a diving cage and drop you ten or twelve feet down with about thirty gallons of chum,” explained Blatter, adding, “It’s a really unique experience.”
Bull sharks, which can grow to nearly eight feet in length, are the only known species of shark that can survive in both fresh and saltwater. Highly aggressive towards humans, they usually thrive in warm shallow water and are responsible for the vast majority of near-shore shark attacks.