Maine Beaches Impose Restrictions Following Shark Sightings, Fatal Attack

Water access is restricted for beachgoers from Phippsburg to Cape Elizabeth.

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Beach restrictions, warning signs and a lot of fear are the lasting reminders of Maine's first fatal shark attack.

On Monday afternoon, 63-year-old Julie Dimperio Holowach, a recently retired fashion executive and Maine summer resident, was killed by a shark while swimming with her daughter off Bailey Island.

Officials with Maine’s Department of Marine Resources said Hollowach, who was wearing a wet suit, may have been mistaken by the shark for a seal.

Days later, dead seals with shark bite marks are still appearing in Maine waters near places like Cousins Island, part of Yarmouth.

There were also two shark sightings on Wednesday.

One, according to Yarmouth’s harbormaster, was between Cousins Island and Harpswell but a significant distance offshore.

Another was spotted near Popham Beach in Phippsburg where a dead seal was also found on Sunday.

Jeff Nichols, a spokesman for Maine DMR and Maine Marine Patrol said the agency has not been able to confirm the reported shark sighting in Phippsburg despite flying an aerial shark patrol.

Sighting or no sightings, there are now signs restricting or warning beachgoers from Phippsburg to Cape Elizabeth.

At Popham Beach State Park, water access is restricted to ankle-deep only.

Reid State Park is limited to knee-deep access and Ferry Beach State Park in Saco and Crescent Beach State Park in Cape Elizabeth are limiting swimmers to waist-deep water.

“It just scares me to even think about this,” said Molly, a summer camp counselor in Yarmouth who was with the Bread and Roses Art Collective camp at Sandy Point Beach on Thursday.

That beach did not have any restrictions on swimmers but did have signs posted warning visitors to use the water at their own risk.

Camp operator Kat Gillies said she was keeping kids away from the water but avoided details about Monday's incident prevent scaring the kids.

“We’re not talking about the sharks, we’ll leave that to the parents,” said Gillies.

Other parents and grandparents were doing the same.

Craig Burkert,  a Yarmouth summer resident and grandparent, who is visiting from North Carolina, said his family was trying to find a  delicate balance between explaining why going in the water wasn’t safe and the reason why.

“We’re trying to shield them from it at the same time as we’re trying to protect them,” he said.

Maine Marine Patrol requests that anyone who spots a shark or shark-bitten seal report their findings to the agency.

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