Mainers keep lookout in wake of shark reports – Press Herald
Three unconfirmed sightings of great whites in one day lead to a brief beach closure and lingering speculation.
Three separate possible sightings of a great white shark were reported along the southern Maine coast Saturday, which was the 40th anniversary of the release of the thriller “Jaws.”
None of the sightings has been confirmed by authorities, who say they are keeping a lookout along coastal waters and are encouraging people to report other possible sightings.
Kevin Proctor of Portland and four friends reported to the U.S. Coast Guard that they saw a great white shark about 7:45 p.m. Saturday while fishing 26 miles out from Portland.
Another sighting of a great white was reported to the Wells harbor master early Saturday afternoon by a passenger on a charter fishing vessel a mile off Moody Beach in Wells. One of the passengers, Jon Thibault, took a photograph.
Wells police also said a master diver reported seeing a great white off Old Orchard Beach on Saturday.
Proctor, a marine engineer, said he and some friends – Scott Lever, Brian Lever, Ben Bush and Evan Martzial – were fishing for blue sharks and hadn’t gotten a bite in a spot where they usually have great luck.
“All day long it was nothing. We are (wondering), ‘What are we doing wrong?’ ” said Proctor.
Then Scott Lever leaned over the 22-foot center-console fishing boat and saw a shape.
“He said, ‘Is that a whale?’ ” said Proctor, who works on a ship stationed in Alaska.
Proctor said the apparent great white was at least 6 feet wide and about 3 feet longer than his boat. It was gray with spots and had a vertical tail fin.
“He was interested in our bait but came under the boat, circled around and came up parallel to the boat before he dove again,” Proctor said Sunday.
Proctor said he reported the sighting to the Coast Guard at his father’s urging.
“I’ve never seen a great white before,” said Proctor.
Proctor said he and his friends tried to photograph the fish but there was too much glare on the water.
Coast Guard Petty Officer Kurt Hein confirmed the reported sighting but said the Coast Guard could not confirm that it was a great white shark.
Meanwhile, Wells police were monitoring Moody Beach after the report of a possible sighting Saturday afternoon. Sgt. Kevin Chabot said in a statement that while shark sightings are not uncommon but they are rare at this time of year and so close to the shore. Chabot said his department encourages people to report possible shark sightings .
Old Orchard Beach lifeguards also were keeping an eye out for great white sharks Sunday after a master diver swimming off Old Orchard Beach on Saturday reported to Wells police that he had spotted a great white. Wells police passed the message on to Old Orchard Beach authorities.
Katie Bordeau, Wells Beach’s chief lifeguard, said because of the rain there were only a few surfers at the beach Sunday. The beach was shut down for two hours Saturday afternoon after the first possible sighting was reported.
Bordeau said the lifeguards are equipped with binoculars and have been watching the water. She said shark sightings along the coast are very rare.
“I have never seen a shark from shore,” said Bordeau, who has been at lifeguard at Wells Beach for eight years.
The great white, which hunts seals and sea lions, is the largest predatory fish in the ocean, according to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts. It can reach more than 20 feet in length and weigh more than 5,000 pounds. A great white can live up to 70 years and reach speeds of 35 mph. Great whites live in waters off all the continents except Antarctica. Scientists estimate there are only 10,000 great whites in existence because of overfishing.
In June 2014, a report that scientists called one of the most comprehensive studies of great white sharks showed their numbers were surging in the ocean off the Eastern U.S. and Canada after decades of decline, The Associated Press reported. The study by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists, published in the journal PLOS ONE, said the population of the notoriously elusive fish had climbed since about 2000 in the western North Atlantic.
Saturday wasn’t the first time a possible great white shark was spotted off Wells.
On Labor Day in 2012, hundreds of people who were enjoying a spectacular day on Wells Beach got a momentary jolt as three gray fins appeared 30 to 50 yards off shore.
Lifeguards ordered everyone out of the water as they set about trying to determine whether the fins, sticking 8 to 10 inches out of the water, were shark fins. They turned out to be ocean sunfish, odd-looking creatures that resemble huge flounder stood up on end.
But the previous weekend, the carcass of a 13-foot great white shark washed up in Rhode Island.
The thriller “Jaws,” directed by Stephen Spielberg and based on the book by Peter Benchley, first released 40 years ago, features a man-eating great white that terrorizes beachgoers in the fictional resort town of Amity. The movie was shot on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.
Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at: