The Maine Marine Patrol continues to monitor Casco Bay and the area where a New York woman was killed by a shark off Bailey Island in Harpswell. Local officials, meanwhile, are asking swimmers to use caution when entering the water.

Harpswell is “advising swimmers to use the utmost caution and recommend that they not go further than waist-deep,” according to Harpswell Recreation Director Gina Perow. “Be especially aware of your surroundings while swimming or recreating in the water and avoid going near seals or schools of fish.”

“We’re advising people that swimming is always at your own risk,” said Arthur Howe, Harpswell’s fire administrator and emergency services agent. “It’s reasonable that people could swim up to their waist. If there are bait fish or seals around, we suggest you vacate the area until that food source passes on.” 

Howe said the town has received at least two reports of dead seals that appeared to have been bitten by a shark. He asks that if the public finds an injured seal, they contact the Marine Mammals of Maine which rescues and rehabilitates seals. If they come across a dead seal that has traumatic injuries, he asks that people contact Paul Plummer, Harpswell’s marine warden, at [email protected] with their name, address and phone number and a photo or description of the seal.

The Orr’s and Bailey Island Fire and Rescue Department declined to comment and deferred to the Maine Department of Marine Resources.

On Tuesday, Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher said state officials didn’t find any sharks during flight searches near Reid State Park in Georgetown and Popham Beach in Phippsburg on Monday and Tuesday. 

Both Popham Beach and Reid State Park are telling beachgoers to stay in shallow water — about waist-deep — for the foreseeable future, according to Jim Britt, Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry spokesman. 

“We have no fear that anyone swimming in shallow water will be perfectly safe,” he said. 

Lifeguards at Maine state parks are collaborating with the Marine Resources to watch the water, Britt said. All lifeguards working at the beaches are “trained to be on the lookout for abnormal seal behavior because they attract sharks,” and will clear the water immediately if any seal behavior is spotted “out of an abundance of caution.” 

Signs warning swimmers and boaters to be careful of sharks and other predators were posted at Winslow Park Beach and Campground in Freeport.

The campground is only about 5 or 6 nautical miles from the site of the attack, and Freeport Town Manager Peter Joseph said they want residents to be careful.

“This is tragic, but it’s an awareness raiser,” he said, “something to keep in mind at all times. Anytime somebody gets into the water there is a slight risk.”

There are no lifeguards at Winslow Park and the beach has always been “swim at your own risk.”

Joseph said it’s unlikely that a shark, especially a great white, would find its way to the campground, but he recognized that with more than 30 miles of coastline in Freeport, the shark could be anywhere.

There’s not a lot of seal activity to attract sharks in the harbor, he said, but there are some ledges on the outer coastal waters of town that are similar to the ledge near Mackerel Cove where the attack took place.

People should make their own decisions about whether to enter the water and how deep to go, he said, urging people to be aware of their surroundings.

Thomas Point Beach in Brunswick is roughly 20 miles from Harpswell, and owner Michael Mulligan said they are unlikely to change anything.

Like Winslow Park, there are no lifeguards, which Mulligan said is due to the shallow water — it does not get deeper than 6 feet — and the lack of rip currents.

The biggest fish in their waters are Atlantic striped bass, and even those are rare, he said, nor are there any seals to draw sharks.

“While we appreciate the severity of the dangers and we feel very badly for the family and the community down there, it’s probably not going to affect us, just because we are quite a bit inland,” he said.

Bob Smith, spokesman of Sebasco Resort in Phippsburg, said the resort doesn’t have lifeguards monitoring the harbor the resort sits on because most people drive about 10 minutes to Popham Beach, which has lifeguards, if they want to visit a beach. 

He said the resort may post shark warnings at the facility if Marine Resources “sees this as a potential danger going forward.” 

Pat Kosalka, owner of the Sagadahoc Bay Campground in Georgetown, said she considers herself lucky to have a campground that sits in a shallow tidal bay that empties during low tide rather than open ocean

“The only thing we ever see is sturgeon or stripers, but I’ve never heard of any sharks,” said Kosalka. “Sometimes people will kayak in the bay, but people really like to go clamming or take walks when the tide goes out.” 

Regardless, she said she’d post a warning to her guests, alerting them to the shark attack that happened about 12 miles down the coast. 

With reporting by Hannah LaClaire, Kathleen O’Brien and Darcie Moore.

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