Great White Shark Sighting Confirmed at Popham Beach State Park

Swimmers at Popham Beach State Park in Phippsburg were urged out of the ocean Wednesday night after a paddler spotted a great white shark swimming offshore at low tide.

The park, one of Maine’s most popular summer destinations, was closed to all activity around 5:20 p.m. Wednesday, according to an alert issued by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.

“Lifeguards cleared the beach and the purple flag was raised,” department spokesman Jim Britt said. The sighting at Popham was confirmed to be a great white, Britt said, but another suspected shark sighting at Reid State Park in Georgetown on Thursday turned out to be a yellowfin tuna. Reid State Park used a drone to identify the fish, Britt said. Purple flags are raised whenever there has been a sighting of a shark in a coastal area.

Popham Beach State Park reopened at 9 a.m. Thursday and no further shark sightings were reported, Britt said Thursday evening.

“Business was business as usual today,” Britt said.

State and local officials have recorded more than a dozen sightings of great white sharks off the coast of Maine so far this year. And biologists say there will likely be more white sharks here in the years to come.

Since early June, the Maine Department of Marine Resources has confirmed at least 14 white shark incidents, according to shark biologist Matt Davis.

“There have been a few areas that have seen increased activity, particularly Seguin Island and the spot just west of Popham Beach on Hermit Island (in Phippsburg). This area had quite a few white sharks last year, almost 20 different individuals,” said Davis, who has studied great white sharks in South Africa and Florida.

Public vigilance has increased since a woman was killed by a white shark in Harpswell two years ago, the state’s only fatal shark attack. The city has set up a hotline for people to report shark sightings, logging six reports so far this summer.


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Sandy A. Greer