Two fishermen caught an eight-foot great white shark off the coast of Cape Elizabeth last month.

It’s one of a few reported shark sightings this season, but experts say more are likely to come as more sharks, including great whites, spend time in Maine waters.

Dan Harriman and his sternman were fishing about 600 feet off the coast of Cape Elizabeth near Richmond Island on June 12 when they caught the eight-foot great white in their nets, said Kurt Shoener, manager of Two Lights and Crescent Beach state parks.

The shark was tangled up in fishing gear in about 30 feet of water, Shoener said on Friday. Harriman and his sternman hauled it on the boat, untangled it from the net, and released it back into the water before calling marine patrol. 

“So that was quite an exciting day on the water for those two,” Shoener said. 

While the shark was caught within the 1500-foot limit that would trigger a beach shutdown, the report to marine patrol reached the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands 12 hours after the catch and release.


Usually, when there is a confirmed sighting of a shark off the coast reported to the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, a shark warning goes into effect, closing proximal beaches until at least an hour has passed since the last confirmed sighting.

So far, there have not been any beach clearings due to shark sightings this season, according to the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands.

Harriman sees smaller, more harmless sand tiger sharks sometimes off the coast, but this is the first time he has caught a great white shark in his nets.

Shoener stressed that this was an “extremely rare and unlikely event,”, especially given the relatively shallow depth of the water, but noted that seal populations have rebounded in recent years, leading to more sharks in Maine waters.

The Maine Department of Marine Resources is responsible for tracking reported sightings from fishermen and marine personnel. Using signal detecting and a reporting app called Sharktivity, the DMR has had three shark reports since the beginning of June, but Shoener said that is likely to increase later in the summer as the waters warm and sharks follow prey – primarily seals – farther north.



While shark attacks on humans are relatively rare, more great whites are passing through Maine waters.

In July 2020, Julie Dimperio Holowach, 63, was killed by a shark while swimming near her summer home on Bailey Island in Harpswell. Her death was the first documented fatal shark attack in Maine. 

Following the attack, the state Department of Marine Resources ramped up efforts to monitor white sharks’ movements, seals wounded or eaten by sharks, and confirmed shark sitings. 

Biologists have been surprised by the results. 

A report released by the Maine Department of Marine Resources this spring showed that 23% of white sharks tagged in Massachusetts – 60 sharks in all – have been detected by receivers in Maine since research on the species began here in 2020.

 Maine State Shark Biologist Matt Davis said last month that the data supports the idea that there is quite a bit of white shark activity in Maine, but that more research is needed.


“This is going to be, from a scientific standpoint, a fairly important year,” he said.

This summer, a coalition of biologists is focusing on the coastline between Cape Elizabeth and Saco – incidentally, near where the shark got tangled in Harriman’s net – to optimize the state’s limited research equipment and because it is an area with a high level of human activity in the water. The focus area also is located near the University of New England in Biddeford, which is contributing to the research.

Researchers study sharks’ movements with real-time buoys that the department of marine resources and UNE deployed last year. The two real-time receivers record data and alert biologists instantly with text messages of tagged white sharks that come within 500-1,000 meters of the buoy. An alert is also sent to the Sharktivity app run by the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy.

There are no plans right now to tag great white sharks in Maine because of funding restrictions, but Davis hopes grants will pay for that effort in the future.

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