Swimming restrictions have been lifted at three coastal state parks a week after Maine saw its first recorded fatal shark attack.
Swimmers will now be allowed to venture beyond waist-deep water at Popham Beach State Park in Phippsburg, Ferry Beach State Park in Saco and Crescent Beach State Park in Cape Elizabeth, according to Jim Britt, a spokesperson for the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, which oversees state parks.
But visitors to Reid State Park in Georgetown will still be restricted to waist-deep water because of a lifeguard shortage, Britt said.
Visitors were restricted to ankle-deep water at Popham Beach State Park after lifeguards there reported a possible shark sighting last 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.
Those restrictions were eased on Friday.
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. Another sighting was reported off Bailey Island on Friday.
The Maine Marine Patrol has been searching the coast for sharks since the fatal attack.