Swimming restrictions have been eased at two coastal state parks after this week’s deadly great white shark attack in Harpswell.
Swimmers will now be allowed to venture into waist-deep water at Popham Beach State Park in Phippsburg and Reid State Park in Georgetown, according to Jim Britt, a spokesperson for the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, which oversees state parks.
Visitors were restricted to ankle-deep water at Popham Beach State Park after lifeguards there reported a possible shark sighting on Wednesday. At Reid State Park, that access was restricted to knee-deep water.
The Maine Marine Patrol did not find a shark in the area, but spotted seals feeding on fish and an ocean sunfish. Seals are common shark prey, and the large sunfish has often been misidentified as a shark.
Britt said Friday the decision to ease those restrictions came after consultation with the Maine Marine Patrol.
“State Park Rangers and lifeguards will continue to actively monitor for sharks and have the authority to clear the water should any concerns arise,” he said.
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 recorded 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.
Swimming at Ferry Beach State Park in Saco and Crescent Beach State Park in Cape Elizabeth remains restricted to waist-deep water, Britt said. There are no restrictions in place at all other coastal state parks.