Great white shark kills Maine swimmer in rare attack

In the first fatal shark attack on record in Maine history, a woman was killed this week by a large target while swimming in the ocean off the state coast, authorities said.

The woman, identified as Julie Dimperio Holowach, 63, was swimming with her daughter about 20 meters off the coast near Bailey Island when she was attacked Monday afternoon, Commissioner of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher said Tuesday. from Maine at a press conference.

Nearby kayakers took her to shore and called emergency response workers to the scene, where she was pronounced dead. The daughter, whose name was not released, was not injured and was able to swim out of the water, she said.

The commissioner said a recovered tooth fragment was used to confirm that it was a great white shark.

“This is a very unusual event,” he said. “In fact, this is the only confirmed fatality in Maine waters from a shark attack.”

Seal populations have recently flourished in New England under federal protections, and the sharks, which feed on them, will follow the seals wherever they go.

“Since sharks, including great whites, venture into Maine’s coastal waters, we urge people to avoid swimming or paddling near seals and raising fish, which are prey to sharks,” said Maj. Rob Beal. from the Maine Marine Patrol.

Mr. Keliher said that Ms. Dimperio Holowach, a New York City resident, was wearing a bathing suit when she was attacked. She owned a property in the area and spent four to five months in Maine during the summers, she added.

Even as a seasonal resident, Ms. Dimperio Holowach impressed the local community.

“She was always the woman who had a smile on her face,” said Mary Coombs, a friend of Mrs. Dimperio Holowach who lives on Bailey Island.

Major Beal said that Ms. Dimperio Holowach and her husband were “well-known and well-respected people” in the city of Harpswell, northeast of Portland.

“The community is really at a difficult juncture trying to process yesterday’s event,” he said.

Major Beal said they were also monitoring the Bailey Island area in Casco Bay, looking for sharks.

According to the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville, which tracks shark attacks worldwide through its International Shark Attack File, only one unprovoked shark attack has been recorded in Maine since 1837.

In 2010, a shortfin shark bit a diver’s camera off the Eastport coast, according to the International Shark Attack File.

“That’s the only other one we have on record, and that wasn’t fatal,” said Jeff Nichols, director of communications for the Maine Department of Marine Resources. “It was just an attack.”

Shark attacks on humans in general are “incredibly rare,” said Gavin Naylor, program director of the International Archive of Shark Attacks. “We like to tell people that there is a much better chance of being struck by lightning than being bitten by a shark.”

The Florida Museum documented 64 unprovoked shark attacks and 41 provoked attacks last year. That was a decrease from the average of 82 annual unprovoked attacks from 2014 to 2018.

Florida has led the number of shark attacks in the United States, followed by Hawaii and California.

While humans are not their preferred food, sharks can mistake a surfer on a board for a seal, their natural prey. Surfers and people who participate in board sports accounted for the majority of shark attacks, according to the Florida Museum.

Recently, a seal carcass with a 19-inch bite was found on a beach in Phippsburg, Maine, according to photos released Sunday by the Sulikowski Fish and Shark Conservation Laboratory at Arizona State University. The group said it had “detected white sharks in southern Maine that were tagged on Cape Cod in Massachusetts.”

The cape has been a popular spot for great white sharks and seals. According to the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, 718 shark sightings have been recorded since 2016 on Sharktivity, an app that allows users to mark where they see sharks.

“Because of that increase in seals in New England, then, of course, there are more white sharks patrolling the area,” said Naylor. “And I wouldn’t be so surprised if they go to Maine.”

Shark activity has caused concern in other parts of the northeast. On Monday, some beaches in Hempstead, New York, on Long Island, banned swimming due to sightings.