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Dolphin or Shark?

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michigan
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Dolphin or Shark?

I was wondering if anyone who grew up or visits to Virginia Beach a lot could help me identify something I saw and almost had an encounter with. My friend and I were vacationing there one summer and when we were swimming a huge wave hit us pulling us under and luckily closer to shore. When I got up I pulled the hair away from my face and looked for my friend, she was doing the same and I saw a large dark gray fin behind her. She was only a few feet behind me and I yelled her to get out, she wouldn't and I told her to turn around, and of course she ran. I know fish swim from side to side and dolphins swim up and down, I wasn't looking long enough to know for SURE but I'm almost positive it was from side to side. The fin seemed to be a lot bigger than a dolphin fin but then I've never seen a dolphin. It was also by itself where I'm assuming dolphins swim together. How can I tell if what I saw was a shark or a dolphin? What sharks even live in Virginia Beach?

Pittsburgh, PA...
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262 posts
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11. Re: Dolphin or Shark?

Can't be sure if it was a dolphin or shark, but whatever it was, you weren't attacked. That is the case 99.999% of the time. Most of the sharks fins that people see from the beach aren't from sharks that pose any danger to people. You are far more likely to be injured or killed on your drive to and from the beach than bitten by a shark. You are also more likely to drown than be bitten by a shark.

I am not dismissing the situations in which people were injured or killed by sharks, they are truly tragic incidents. However, they are extremely rare. If you avoid swimming in the ocean at the times when you are most likely to be bitten by a feeding shark that mistakes you for a fish (dusk and dawn), there is no reason to fear going in the water. Also, if you see schools of fish when you are swimming in the ocean, it is probably a good idea to get out of the water until they move on if you are concerned about shark attacks.

Enjoy the opportunities to view the wildlife - both dolphins and sharks.

Alexandria, VA
8 posts
1 review
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12. Re: Dolphin or Shark?

I grew in the Norfolk-Virginia Beach area from the early 1970s to the mid-1980s. While sharks were sighted on occasion, it was not with regularity. On the other hand, I sighted dolphins almost every time I was at the beach. Although both shark and dolphin dorsal fins can initially look similar, the dolphin fin usually has a slight curve at the top. When I was a kid, the dolphins would sometimes get inside the jellyfish nets (which were placed slightly offshore to protect the swimmers from jellyfish). The actions of the many swimmers would confuse the dolphins and they would be unable to get out by themselves. Many tourists thought that the dolphins were sharks and panicked. Then they would eventually see the rounded back and breath a sigh of relief. Dophins usually travel in groups, but you can also see them alone. I am not saying that sharks never frequent the beach. I remember a little kid that caught a baby tiger shark at Ocean View once. Also, a girl stepped on a small shark buried in the sand, which bit her ankle. She went to the local hospital and got a few stiches. That's about all I remember in the way of sharks and I lived in the area for years. They are common offshore, but most sharks stay away from human swimmers. We are not their preferred food. Still, it is best to use common sense. Keep an eye out for sharks and do not swim either in the early morning or evening. That is when sharks tend to feed. Do not wear shiny jewelry (or anything that has a metallic glint) in the water. Sharks can easily mistake the glint for the flash of a fish scale. Also, swim with others - this is just good ocean swimming sense.

The shark sepices that are found in Virginia waters are listed on the VIMS website at:

vims.edu/newsmedia/…species

Both Bull and Sandbar sharks do seem to be getting more comfortable with swimmers along the east coast. Attacks often occur in 4-feet or even less of water. Avoid swimming out to sandbars, tempting though they are. Sharks often come inside the sandbars to catch fish trapped there. The boy that was killed in Sandbridge in 2001 was surfing at 6:00 pm (a no-no) and had swum out to a sandbar (also a no-no). He was in four feet of water.

Despite all of this, you have much grater chance of being struck by lightning than by being attacked by a shark. Remember that humans are not the shark's preferred food and they will usually try to avoid you. Have a good time and enjoy the beach!

virginia
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1 post
5 reviews
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13. Re: Dolphin or Shark?

My family went deep sea fishing and plenty of people including myself were pulling in baby sharks. I would guess if there are baby sharks there are adult ones too.

Virginia Beach
7 posts
1 review
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14. Re: Dolphin or Shark?

the oceanfront is safe...it's probably dolphins because I have encountered alot of that in the past. There are life guards and beach patrols patroling around to see if there is a shark or any problems...Feel safe to swim, in case of sharks around, the patrol will honk a very loud horn to alert everyone in the water.

see some of the pictures...

http://www.placestogoinvb.com/

Newport News...
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26 posts
10 reviews
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15. Re: Dolphin or Shark?

I am a local, native, and surfer.

the only sharks we have here are sand sharks, and they will only slash at your ankle if you step on one. And that will happern only if you are far from shore and on a sand bar.

Porpoises are everywhere!

the only game fish we have seen have been at Hatteras Island and Pea Island. The typical sailfish and blue fish jumping as they feed on the fish that school near the shore to avoid them.

There was a bull fish attack in NC off Hatteras Is. around 2004, but that was a deep water attack.

there are NO sharks in VB! You are more likely to get stung by a jellyfish.

pray for good surf.

Alexandria, VA
8 posts
1 review
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16. Re: Dolphin or Shark?

I have to add that I just came back from four days at Virginia Beach. I was on the beach and in the water a lot. I saw TONS of dolphins. In fact, I saw dolphins every hour of every day that I was on the beach. They passed by quite close to shore and the swimmers were delighted. Dolphin tours were everywhere, from speedboat to sailboat to kayak - everyone wants to get close to the many dolphins that live in the area. I saw no sharks and did not hear any reports of recent shark activity. When I was fishing at the local pier, none of the fishermen there had heard of any sharks or had caught any baby ones on their lines.

Columbia, South...
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731 posts
100 reviews
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17. Re: Dolphin or Shark?

fakee, to say that there are NO sharks in VB is rediculous. Anywhere there are warm ocean waters, there are sharks, not great whites, but sharks just the same. Now whether you will see them or they will bite, the chances are very, very slim - but they are there! FYI, a sand shark can still do some pretty good damage requiring several stitches and possibly surgery.

New York City, New...
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18. Re: Dolphin or Shark?

I'm currently vacationing in VA Beach and took my girl to jetski from one of the local renting spots. Went out to the ocean and while riding we took a spill and fell off.Helped my girl back on the jetski then I got back on and made a circle around from where I fell when doing so I saw a Fin gliding through the water and side to side. First i thought i was bugging out but my girl saw the same right when i was gonna mention what i saw. I'm no expert but the posts here confirms what I know now to be a shark. I went right back to the base where i rented the jetski and told one of the workers I returned because of what i saw and he tells me " You didnt see a shark it was a dolphin theres no sharks here" I told him im pretty sure it was a shark where im no expert but I strongly believe it was. Asked some of the locals and they confirmed the same thing so to let people know there are sharks in va beach dont let anyone tell you different...

virginia beach
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19. Re: Dolphin or Shark?

I'm a Va Beach native. There are definitely sharks here, as there are in all warm waters. I knew the little boy who died in Sandbridge in 2001. He went to my church. It was a horrible tragedy. The tourism industry doesn't want you to know about the sharks because it would hurt their income. It is highly unlikely that a shark would attack a human. I have seen sharks and know plenty of people who have seen them too. There was a picture in our local paper the virginian-pilot a few years ago of an aerial shot of the beach, showing sharks swimming amongst the people.

Virginia Beach...
Destination Expert
for Ocracoke
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1,341 posts
88 reviews
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20. Re: Dolphin or Shark?

Well I guess the only way to avoid sharks or other sea animals is to stay out of the water. But you can't live life like that, be as safe as you can, do not swim at dusk or dawn.

More of a threat is rip currents, take the time to educate yourself, they claim far more lives than sharks.

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