Shark expert weighs in on recent attack

Senior scientist at the New England Aquarium talks about the tragic incident in Harpswell.
We spoke to a shark expert about the deadly attack in Harpswell.
We spoke to a shark expert about the deadly attack in Harpswell.
Published: Jul. 29, 2020 at 6:36 PM EDT
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HARPSWELL, Maine (WABI) - A scientist at the New England Aquarium says although the Gulf of Maine is warming due to climate change, he doesn’t see it as direct evidence that’s leading to more sharks.

Dr. Nick Whitney is a senior scientist and says, “white sharks will use coastal waters along the entire eastern seaboard from Nova Scotia to the Florida Keys. They will also travel offshore to Bermuda and even further, occasionally even crossing the mid-Atlantic ridge."

When asked about if warming waters will lead to white sharks heading further north Whitey says, “maybe, but white sharks swim in colder waters and have known to be in Maine coastal waters for a long time anyway.”

We spoke to Dr. Whitney after a woman from New York City died Monday when she was bitten by a great white shark in Harpswell.

It happened near Bailey Island. Witnesses told marine patrol 63-year-old Julie Dimperio Holowach was swimming by White Sails Lane.

Dr. Whitney says there is always a risk when we get into the ocean and an average of four people die in the world each year due to sharks and more are injured.

He says this is an unexpected occurrence. Sharks do not usually prey on humans but great white sharks do go after larger species like seals.

“It’s just a devastating thing to have happened and unfortunately just every once in awhile a shark does make a mistake and bite something that is not their normal prey item and that just seems to be what happened here,” he says.

Dr. Whitney says he doesn’t believe the fact the woman was wearing a wet suit factored into this. He says people have been bitten by sharks in the past who were not wearing one and having one on could actually help in the case of an injury. He says increase of seals which could lead to more sharks in an area.

If you see a shark, the best advice is to calmly leave the water and alert other swimmers.

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