New swimming restrictions have been put in place at a handful of coastal state parks after a possible shark sighting on Wednesday.
Lifeguards at Popham Beach State Park in Phippsburg on Wednesday reported a possible shark sighting, but searchers didn’t find any sharks, according to Jim Britt, a spokesperson for the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, which manages state parks.
The Maine Marine Patrol did spot seals feeding on fish, as well as an ocean sunfish, Britt said. Seals are common shark prey, and the large sunfish has often been misidentified as a shark.
In response, Britt said that swimming will be restricted to ankle-deep water at Popham beach, while it will be restricted to knee-deep water at Reid State Park in Georgetown and waist-deep water at Ferry Beach State Park in Saco and Crescent Beach State Park in Cape Elizabeth.
Swimming was previously restricted Tuesday to waist-deep water at both Popham Beach and Reid State Parks.
That comes after the first recorded fatal shark attack in Maine on Monday, when 63-year-old Julie Dimperio Holowach of New York City was attacked by a great white shark while swimming in Mackerel Cove off Bailey Island in Harpswell.
The Maine coast is at the northern edge of the great white shark’s range, but the fish are not commonly spotted off Maine. There are two to three sightings of great white sharks off the Maine coast each summer, according to the National Oceanographic Data Center, with recent sightings near a popular Kennebunkport beach in 2019, near Stratton Island off Old Orchard Beach in 2018 and near Wells in 2017.
The Maine Marine Patrol has been searching the coast for sharks since the fatal attack.