A great white shark was responsible for bite marks found on a dead Minke whale found five miles off Old Orchard Beach, according to a marine researcher.

University of New England professor James Sulikowski photographed the 25-foot whale Friday morning after he was alerted to it by a commercial fisherman. The bite marks near the whale’s fin were the work of a great white shark, Sulikowski said, given that the teeth marks measure 18 inches across. Sulikowski said the shark likely measured 12 to 14 feet long.

The whale was photographed about three miles from where Sulikowski has placed underwater cameras near Stratton Island, as part of the the state’s first dedicated great white shark study. The island was chosen because Sulikowski picked up nearby radio signals last fall from a 12-foot great white shark that had been tagged by biologist Greg Skomal in Cape Cod.

“The position where we found the whale was about three miles from where we deployed cameras near Stratton Island. Three miles is nothing for a white shark,” Sulikowski said.

University of New England professor James Sulikowski measured the bites on a dead Minke whale at 18 inches across, and estimate the great white shark that bit it to be 12-14 feet long.

“That’s really cool to see it this time of year. When our radio receiver picked up the white shark last year, it was early September. Now we’re seeing this in July. It’s just incredible because we are seeing more indication that white sharks are here consistently.”

Sulikowski went back out by boat Friday afternoon to see if the shark had returned to the whale, but was unable to locate the whale because of fog and high seas.

Skomal, the senior scientist with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, has been tagging great white sharks for 10 years. He is currently tracking 134 tagged great white sharks with radio and satellite transmitters.

Skomal said great whites are on the rebound after being protected from harvesting in U.S. waters since 1991. He said the Gulf of Maine remains a mystery in biologists’ understanding of the sharks’ range, but they are likely here given the state’s robust seal population.

After finding the whale Friday, Sulikowski said he is encouraged he will find more evidence of white sharks off the coast of southern Maine this year.

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